Google has launched its very own mobile network in the US.
Although the company hasn't suddenly invested in the costly infrastructure required to become a T-Mobile-like network operator overnight, it has partnered with some of the biggest carriers and developed a new technology, all of which will ensure you're automatically connected to the internet (whether through LTE networks or Wi-Fi hotspots).
Google has packaged this initiative as a program called Project Fi.
"Project Fi enables us to work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what's possible. By designing across hardware, software and connectivity, we can more fully explore new ways for people to connect and communicate," explained Google via a blog post published on 22 April.
In order to help you learn more about Google's mobile network and determine if it's something you're interested in trying, we've explained a few things you need to know about the program, including which mobile networks have teamed up with Google and how much a monthly plan will cost.
1. What is Project Fi?
Project Fi is all about keeping you connected to the internet. It intelligently determines if you're moving around and auto-connects you to the nearest and fastest network, such as a free and open Wi-Fi hotspot or a partner 4G LTE network. Project Fi also helps secure your data through encryption, so you can browse safely as you go about your day.
2. Which networks are partners?
Sprint and T-Mobile in the US have partnered with Google to launch Project Fi.
3. What else can Project Fi do?
Switching between LTE and Wi-Fi networks
Project Fi is also about getting technology out of the way. You should be able to communicate with friends or family, for instance, no matter the connection or device you're using. Thus, in order to make fluid communication a reality, Project Fi is able to seamlessly transition your calls from Wi-Fi to cell networks without ever dropping your conversation.
So, with Project Fi, if your phone is connected to W-Fi in a coffee shop, you'll be able to communicate with no problems, and whenever you happen to leave that Wi-Fi area, your phone will automatically transition to a cell network. You can learn more about Project Fi networks here.
Cloud phone numbers
Google said it also wants Project Fi to help phone numbers adapt to a multi-screen world, so it's included a feature that puts your phone number in the cloud. With this setup, you can talk and text with your number on any phone, tablet, or laptop, meaning you can stay connected using another screen.
Just imagine losing your phone, but then grabbing your laptop to place a call instead.
4. How much does Project Fi cost?
Project Fi is available with the following plan and data options:
- $20 per month for the basics (talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in 120+ countries)
- $10 per GB for cellular data while in the US and abroad (1GB is $10/month, 2GB is $20/month, etc)
It is hard to predict data usage, so Google said you'll get credit for the full value of your unused data. So, if you paid $30 for 3GB and only use 1.4GB one month, you'll get $16 back. You can learn more about Project Fi's plan here.
You can also learn about international rates here.
5. Is Google offering tech support?
Yes. When you purchase the single plan option for $20 per month, you'll get 24/7 support for when or if you need help.
6. When and where will Project Fi be available?
Project Fi initially launched in the US through an Early Access Program, in which Google was inviting the people to sign up and test the service. Project Fi only worked with the Nexus 6 during the Early Access Program. It was the first Android smartphone to support the hardware and software required to work with Project Fi.
More specifically, it worked with the Project Fi SIM card. If you already bought a Nexus 6 with a plan through a carrier, such as AT&T, you could still sign up for Project Fi and get a free Project Fi SIM card. That said, the new LG Nexus 5X and Huawei Nexus 6P, which began shipping in October, now also work with Project Fi.
7. How can you request an invite to try Project Fi?
If you'd like to request an invite, go to fi.google.com.
To celebrate the launch of the LG Lexus 5X and Huawei 6P, Google is handing out free "instant" invites for its Project Fi wireless network. You just need to go here and request an instant invite. Instant invites will only be available for a 24-hour period. Once you get in, Google will instantly let you sign up for the wireless network.
8. Is there a Project Fi coverage map?
Yes. You can see exactly where Project Fi offers network coverage here.
9. What happens when you dial 404-978-9316?
If you call the number displayed on Project Fi's Experience page, somebody will pick up. But not just anybody. It's Lionel Richie, singing "Hello".