In addition to the big carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, and Sprint, Google is now entering the wireless service arena with their Project Fi network using the Nexus 6, which is currently the only supported device. This project doesn’t create a new network, but rather uses network equipment that is already in place and is acting as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).
There are a few notable differences that make Project Fi stand out. The first is that Project Fi will connect you to the best available network (the one with the strongest connection) whether it is WiFi or one of two available LTE network partners, T-mobile or Sprint. According to the Project Fi website, “Project Fi automatically connects you to more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots we’ve verified as fast and reliable… Your data is secured through encryption when we connect you to open Wi-Fi hotspots. It’s like your data has a private tunnel to drive through [VPN].” Project Fi also supports WiFi calling which helps to expand your network. The transition from WiFi calling to a cell network (if one is available) is supposed to be seamless when the WiFi signal gets weak. If the strongest connection is a cellular network, Project Fi will automatically detect and connect you to the fastest network in your area, starting with 4G LTE, then 3G, and 2G.
Another notable difference with Project Fi compared to the big carriers is that it allows you to share your phone number with all your devices that support Google Hangouts. Using Hangouts, you can make or receive calls or send and receive texts on devices other than you phone like your laptop, your computer, or your tablets.
The third difference is that you don’t pay for data you don’t use. They are offering a basic plan for $20 per month for unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, low cost international calls, and WiFi tethering (using your phone as a hotspot). They are charging $10 per GB of data anywhere in the world (although speeds may be limited to 256 kbps or 3G speeds outside the US), and if you purchase three GB of data but only use 1.5 GB, you will be credited in cash for the amount you do not use on your next bill. If you should go over your data limit, they will simply charge you $0.01 per MB that you used over your limit (this amounts to $10 per GB).
Project Fi is currently an Early Access Program and you’ll need an invite to participate (there are only a few invites given out per week). While it is an Early Access Program, the Nexus 6 phone will be the only device supported. Please visit Google Project Fi’s website for more information or to request an invite.