In my best Ron Paul impression, all I can say is “It’s happening!” Google today announced its Project Fi wireless service, which has been the subject of much speculation over the past few months. However, Google has confirmed much of that speculation now that the full details of the service have been revealed.
First and foremost, Project Fi — yes, that is its official name — is limited only to the Nexus 6 smartphone for the time being. That will severely limit the service’s reach at launch, but it does allow for Google to initially tailor the service for a hardware/software platform that it completely controls.
If you can past that bit of disappointing news, Project Fi actually has a lot to offer. As previously reported, Google has partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile to provide mobile voice and data service across the country. Project Fi will always connect your Nexus 6 dynamically to the fastest available network be it Wi-Fi, Sprint, or T-Mobile. You will also be able to automatically connect to over one million Google-verified, open Wi-Fi hotspots around the country. Before you start clinching your stomach over the prospects of automatically connecting to an open Wi-Fi hotspot, Google explains that all of your transmitted data will be encrypted.
“Wherever you're connected to Wi-Fi—whether that's at home, your favorite coffee shop or your Batcave—you can talk and text like you normally do,” said Nick Fox, Google VP of Communications Products. “If you leave an area of Wi-Fi coverage, your call will seamlessly transition from Wi-Fi to cell networks so your conversation doesn’t skip a beat.”
In addition, your phone number is not tied to one physical device — it “lives in the cloud” according to Fox; similar to Google Voice. “You can talk and text with your number on just about any phone, tablet or laptop. So the next time you misplace your phone, you can stay connected using another screen.”
Now for the really juicy stuff: pricing. Google will charge you a flat $20 a month for a “Fi Basics” package that includes unlimited talk/text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international calling to over 120 counties. You can then pay $10 for each gigabyte of cellular data that you want to add to your plan. So if you want 2GB of data, you’ll pay a total $40 per month. If you want 6GB of data, you’ll fork over $80 a month. But that’s not where Google’s fresh wireless endeavor ends — you will be refunded for data that you don’t use (more details can be found here).
“Since it's hard to predict your data usage, you'll get credit for the full value of your unused data,” adds Fox. “Let's say you go with 3GB for $30 and only use 1.4GB one month. You'll get $16 back, so you only pay for what you use.”
Nexus 6 owners that want to sign up for Project Fi (and who wouldn’t?) can request an invite to the Early Access Program right here.