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On Wednesday, April 29, Google will launch its version of a wireless cell phone carrier, Project Fi, which will take the form of a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). Using the T-Mobile and Sprint networks, Project Fi aims to make it easier and faster for you to use Google anywhere by improving WiFi speed and cell coverage in the United States and 120 other countries. To see if your area is eligible for this service, visit the Project Fi website and request an invitation.
Google calls Project Fi—because why not abbreviate a word that’s already an abbreviation?—a “network of networks,” relying on current mobile carriers to provide WiFi and 4G LTE coverage. What’s cool about this partnership is that a traveler on the move using Project Fi will automatically be switched from WiFi to cell service, and either T-Mobile or Sprint based on which service gives you the best connectivity.
Google envisions Project Fi as a seamless user experience. If you’re on a call and you travel out of a T-Mobile network and into a Sprint area, the call shouldn’t drop; if it does, though, Fi will switch your call to a WiFi network instead. Data use and texting will experience similar improvements in coverage and also in speed.
With the launch of Project Fi, Google hopes to set an example that will lead other carriers into the age of reliable coverage. In a blog post, Google’s VP of Communications Nick Fox laments, “…even in places like the U.S., where mobile connections are nearly ubiquitous, there are still times when you turn to your phone for that split-second answer and don’t have fast enough speed.”
T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere agrees. “The carriers have dug in their heels and held US wireless back for too long,” he wrote on his company’s blog. “This industry needs all the fresh blood and fresh thinking it can get.”
Another great feature of Project Fi is that users can make calls with any Google Hangout-enabled device, which can come in handy if you lose your phone in a taxi or Uber. You can still stay in touch if you have your tablet or laptop on hand.
You can use your current phone number if you switch to Project Fi. Pricing on the plan starts at a base rate of $20 per month plus $10 per GB per month of data. (International data and texting is included, but calls will be 20 cents per minute, and data rate is limited to 256kbps.) Unused data rolls over to the next month, and if you go over your allotment, the service will automatically allow you another 1GB for 10 more bucks.
Unfortunately for the masses, Project Fi only works on Google’s Nexus 6 phone—which costs $649. There’s a payment plan, but no discount for new subscribers, and no indication about when this might work on other phones.
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