Google announced today that they will be unveiling their new Google cell phone service called Project Fi. The news came after several months of anticipation and speculation about the proposed wireless service. Although, this wouldn’t be Google’s first time dabbling in the telecommunications industry as we’ve already seen their Google Voice and Google Hangouts app.
Google MVNO Providers
Of course, Google doesn’t have its own cell phone tower network, it has to use the networks of established mobile phone service providers. For those that don’t know, this type of arrangement is called an MVNO or Mobile Virtual Network Operator.
Currently there are many MVNOs that exist throughout the world who are essentially leasing bandwidth on other companies’ towers. Some example MVNOs that I recommend often is Ting and Republic Wireless who both use the Sprint network yet have very different business models while providing cheaper cell phone plan options than the big guys.
The Google MVNO wireless service is said to be using both the Sprint network and the T-Mobile network. While these are not bad networks to run on, they are also the third and fourth biggest behind AT&T and Verizon.
However, one technological advantage that Google is implementing that might give them a leg up on other MVNOs is its ability to switch seamlessly between both the Sprint network, T-Mobile network, and Wi-Fi!
Project Fi aims to put you on the best network wherever you go. As you move around, the best network for you might be a Wi-Fi hotspot or a specific 4G LTE network. We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it’s Wi-Fi or one of our two partner LTE networks.
Now the ability to switch between a particular network and wi-fi is not new. We’ve seen Republic Wireless pioneer this concept with their “handover” technology, and additionally with other carriers like T-Mobile fairly recently. But switching between multiple networks and wi-fi is a pretty big deal for a MVNO which will help them to hopefully have much better coverage than big boys AT&T and Verizon.
In addition, Google is also in the Broadband Fiber game in multiple cities now. So their ability to develop many wi-fi access points across those cities would only help to further decrease reliance on third party towers, thus increasing their profit margins on their phone plans.
Google Cell Phone Plans
Speaking of cell phone plans, lets take a quick look at what they’re offering and how much it is going to cost.
Their pricing structure is nice and simple with a base cost of only $20 per month which includes unlimited talk and text with no annual contract involved.
For data, they have a tiered rate structure which simply goes like this: 1GB for $10, 2GB for $20, 3GB for $30, and so on. Basically, it is $10 per each gigabyte of data up to a maximum of 10GB. So an example of a bare bones talk, text, data plan would cost $30 for unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data. While this isn’t too bad, we’ve seen better deals from other MVNOs like Republic Wireless which offers an unlimited everything plan for $25 per month.
However, there is an interesting tidbit associated with the Google Wireless data plan. They state the following from their Project Fi plans page:
At the end of each month, you’ll get your unused data credited in dollars and cents, so you only pay for what you use.
So essentially you are only paying for data you use like a Pay-As-You-Go style plan. Kind of makes you wonder why they bother with having you select a monthly data allocation to begin with.
Project Fi Google Wireless Phones
Even though Project Fi sounds promising, here is the kicker to this whole thing – there is only one phone supported by their service and it is the Nexus 6 which costs a whopping $649… yikes!
While only supporting one phone isn’t a big deal breaker with me, after all Republic Wireless only started with one phone too, but the difference is Project Fi’s phone is damn expensive, more than twice the cost of the $300 Moto X (a great smartphone) which Republic debuted with.
Hopefully, Project Fi will support more phones in the future but at this time I can’t see anyone who is looking for a cheap cell plan option that would want to drop that much on a phone just to try out the service.
If there are any readers out there who end up trying the Project Fi service, or even entertaining the idea, please let us know your thoughts and analysis in the comments below.