Google Project Fi – Now with Unlimited Data

Google Project Fi is a low-cost wireless service we talked about previously. While it doesn’t get as much buzz as their Fiber Internet service, it offers consumers a potentially cheaper alternative to other wireless carriers. Some tech industry pundits feel Project Fi serves to disrupt the wireless world in a similar manner as Google Fiber itself.

Project Fi may be a worthy wireless option for you. Logo copyright Google.

News appeared this week in Fortune about Project Fi now offering unlimited data. Let’s train our eye on the details to see if Fi makes sense as your wireless service.

Project Fi’s Data Plans benefit the Consumer

Even without offering unlimited data, Project Fi provides customers with data policies unique to the industry. For example, users only pay for the actual data they use. In short, they receive a monthly credit for unused data.

Their new unlimited data plan costs $60 per month. Customers keep the option for staying with their cheaper plan, with the unlimited data price kicking in once they reach that data threshold. One user pays $10 per gigabyte, so essentially they never pay more than that $60 per month no matter their data usage.

For more details, check out the Google page explaining Project Fi’s plan pricing model. Plans for multiple users also exist. Families with six users pay no more than $180 for unlimited data. There is also a $20 monthly line fee no matter the number of users.

For its part, Google calls their unlimited data plan, “Bill Protection.” It is essentially a policy transparent to the user. In short, you pay for the data you use – and only that data. One caveat to note: Google may throttle your download speed if using more than 15GB per line in one month.

What about the Project Fi Wireless Speed?

A Project Fi plan also includes international roaming with high-speed data at no additional cost. But how fast is the Internet speed when using Fi? Google partners with T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, so expect similar 4G speeds as provided by those carriers’ networks.

If you are interested in checking out Google Project Fi, chances are good coverage is available in your area. Once again, Google piggybacks on the networks of the three carriers mentioned earlier. A compatible device is another requirement. These include the Pixel, Android One Moto X4, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6.

Stay tuned to Bandwidth Place for additional news and insights from the telecommunications world.

The Game Developers’ View on Net Neutrality

With the repeal of the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules in December, game developers of all types expressed concerns for the future viability of their craft. Given that both independent and AAA developers are relying more on digital distribution than retail, it’s not just development plans but also distribution and communications that might present bottlenecks. The development process alone hinges on having stable high-speed Internet but ensuring that players also have consistent access is integral for game developers’ long-term sustainability.

Will online gaming services like Steam be affected by the Net Neutrality repeal? Logo copyright Steam.

Here are some of the ways the Net Neutrality repeal could impact developers.

Throttling and Lockouts for Games Requiring a Constant Internet Connection

When architecting online games, different considerations need to be made compared to standalone games or those needing an Internet connection for updates, achievements, and leaderboards. Accounting for differences in Internet speeds is part of the process for online game development, but it could become more difficult if ISPs decide to throttle gaming content purposely.

Trouble Connecting with Development Team Members

For independent developers using mostly personal funds for development and basic operating expenses, potential increases in Internet costs and/or siloing of available services can result in games taking even longer to get released. Access to high-speed Internet may go undisrupted in large cities and metropolitan areas. However, with developers living in remote regions with limited Internet access and fewer ISP choices, communications among team members can become fractured particularly when it comes to large file exchanges.

Potential Collapse of Steam and Other Online Distribution Platforms

If platforms meant specifically for games get siloed (such as the ISP charging extra to access Steam, online gaming portals, and other gaming sites and services), developers are worried that the ecosystems surrounding these platforms could collapse if groups of players suddenly lose access to their games. This involves either being unable or unwilling to pay an ISP more per month for game services, or from being throttled or locked out.

Steam alone boasts 18.5 million users. For many game developers of all calibers, Steam isn’t just a place to sell games that players prefer. It’s a game library and way of connecting with other people socially. The forums, store page, and groups on Steam are how many communities form and expose the developer’s work to other people. If those discoverability aspects are significantly hampered, smaller developers can have an even harder time getting noticed when around 7,000 games are now being released every year on the service.

Concerns of Content Restrictions

Whether the game is made by a team of several hundred people in AAA studios or just two people on laptops, it’s not just passion that propels them: it’s fans.

In addition to the technical and financial limitations already discussed that could prevent fans from congregating on Steam and other distribution platforms, many fandoms also thrive on social media and sites intended to build communities. If ISPs don’t approve of the type of content that many fandom sites and accounts tend to host (including copyrighted images and footage as well as fan art and fiction that definitely treads some risqué turf), hosting can be compromised or even access altogether.

Subcultures and fandoms that form very tight-knit communities feel particularly at risk in the face of Net Neutrality repeal. Game developers are certainly affected by this, because if they don’t have fans fostering those communities, they have a much harder time staying sustainable compared to relying on advertising and traditional marketing alone.

At the time of this writing, Congress is challenging the Net Neutrality repeal vote; so keep an eye on Bandwidth Place for future updates.

Senate Vote on Net Neutrality Repeal Override Looms

The Congressional fight over the Net Neutrality repeal continues unabated. Senator Ed Markey’s resolution to override the recent FCC repeal of Net Neutrality principles received its 30th cosponsor. That simple fact now forces a full – and public – Senate floor vote on the resolution.

The FCC’s newest logo.

Read on for additional details on this important vote affecting every American’s Internet usage.

The Importance of a Public Senate Vote on Net Neutrality

When Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri agreed to cosponsor the Markey resolution, it triggered a Senate rule requiring a public floor vote. Typically, a Senate committee approves a bill first before a public vote.

In an election year, the stakes for the Senate just went through the roof. A polled supermajority of Americans – spanning both political parties – supports Net Neutrality. Therefore, expect senators up for reelection in November to see their vote used in election advertising.

“We’ve reached the magic number of 30 to secure a vote on the Senate floor, and that number will only continue to climb. Republicans are faced with a choice — be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support a free and open internet, or hold hands with the special interests who want to control the internet for their own profit,” said Senator Markey.

A Republican Senator supports the Markey Resolution

Chances for the Markey resolution’s success improved when Maine’s Republican senator, Susan Collins, announced support for the bill. “Senator Collins does not support the FCC’s recent decision to repeal net neutrality rules, and she will support Senator Markey’s legislation that would overturn the FCC’s vote,” said Collins’s spokeswoman to The Hill.

Still even with Collins’s support, another Republican senator needs to cross the aisle, assuming all Democrats vote in lockstep. A successful vote for the resolution sends the bill to the House and potentially the President’s desk. Of course, a final approval is unlikely. Nonetheless, getting congressional votes regarding Net Neutrality on the public record is the key in this mid-term election year.

“It will be a major issue in the 2018 campaigns,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer commented on Tuesday. Expect the vote to happen in a few months. As always, be sure to stay tuned to Bandwidth Place for additional coverage of the Net Neutrality repeal.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch

Nintendo decided to leave 2017 with a bang, releasing the masterful Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in December in time for the holidays. The game is still generating interest as 2018 starts, and with good reason.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Image copyright Nintendo.

The Xenoblade 2 storyline is a common motif – hero symbiotically aligned with powerful weapon that bad people want. However, the beautiful graphics, voice acting, and gameplay details build out a game with stellar production values – taking the motif to its cutting edge.

Your Internet Speed and Xenoblade Chronicles 2

You definitely need a good connection in order to enjoy Xenoblade 2 in its rightful place. I also had to make sure that any bugs I found were not due to the connection. is a perfect place to check your Internet speed. My results were as follows:

Ping – 199 ms
DL Speed – 1.37 Mbps
UL Speed – 0.43 Mbps

These stats are pretty good, so we can be sure that any glitches in the game are ACTUALLY in the game. We need to know, because the big fights in Xenoblade can get really intense. When you’re fighting bosses who name themselves “The Zekenator,” you want to be able to focus all of your attention on the game, not the tech around it.

The true strength of Xenoblade is its ability to couch some really heavy philosophy into a lighthearted format. Make no mistake, however. The writers know how to switch from giggly humor to death and darkness on a dime. Part of the excitement of the game is that you never know when you will get your next emotion spike. No character is safe, a la The Sopranos.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 offers Great Graphics

The main characters and bosses have excellent animation; however, faceless NPCs that show up in larger numbers seem to have been a secondary priority. This may have been a necessity because of the limitations of the Switch, because the game does not seem to run in full 1080p when the screen gets overly crowded during its bigger fights.

The game’s world of Uraya runs the environmental gamut – you will explore valleys that resemble descriptions of the Garden of Eden before moving into frigid ice worlds and post-apocalyptic deserts. You may have a bit of trouble figuring out where to go in this massive world, because the map system is purposefully less helpful than the average strategy or exploration game. Older gamers may find this gameplay choice refreshing – you actually have to note details in the landscape to figure out some locations.

A Perfect Video Game Combat System

One of the best gameplay elements is the weapons system. You should truly have a good time once you begin to expand the Blades that your character is able to carry. The combat system is perfect – simple to learn, difficult to master. You will need to cultivate near perfect timing for best results so that you can build up to intense, beautiful Overdrives (to use a Final Fantasy term).

Even the best players should be able to get around 60 hours of gameplay out of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which is almost unheard of in today’s hit-and-quit RPG/strategy games (are you listening, The Order 1886?) Xenoblade is truly a standout project. It may not hold your hand, but if you can get over that, you will find yourself immersed in a world of adventure and fun.

AT&T bringing Mobile 5G Service to the Marketplace

Armed with a new set of radio standards from the regulatory body, 3GPP, AT&T recently announced plans on rolling out mobile 5G wireless service to 12 American markets in 2018. This news comes hot on the heels of their fixed 5G trials in Waco, Texas. ZDNet – among other sources – published this story earlier this week.

AT&T Globe
The AT&T Globe. Copyright AT&T.

So let’s take a closer look at the details of the AT&T announcement. Is mobile 5G coming to your city in 2018?

New 5G Radio Standards the Key to Faster Mobile Rollout

The fresh 3GPP radio standard for 5G is leading to faster deployment of the new wireless technology on a global basis. The standards group tweeted the good news in late December. “NSA 5G NR specs were approved today at RAN#78. Balazs Bertenyi, RAN chair, called it ‘an impressive achievement in a remarkably short time, with credit due particularly to the working groups’,” said their tweet.

A joint media release from practically every large telecommunications company in the world offered a hint at the future. “This standard completion is an essential milestone to enable cost-effective and full-scale development of 5G NR (New Radio), which will greatly enhance the capabilities of 3GPP systems, as well as facilitate the creation of vertical market opportunities,” the statement said.

Most notably, 3GPP introduced these new standards six months earlier than expected. This likely led to AT&T’s faster schedule for its own mobile 5G rollout.

AT&T’s Plans for 5G Wireless in 2018

Stating their 5G rollout plans for 2018 are ambitious, AT&T realizes the transformational potential provided by this new wireless technology. “With faster speeds and ultra-low latency, 5G will ultimately deliver and enhance experiences like virtual reality, future driverless cars, immersive 4K video, and more,” said the company’s president of Technology and Operations, Melissa Arnoldi.

AT&T’s 5G Evolution network technology is already installed in 23 markets all across the country. They expect to bring it to hundreds of new American markets this year. This state of the art network backbone is a predecessor for installing the mobile 5G service.

AT&T remains tightlipped about the 12 markets slated to receive mobile 5G in the coming year. The markets currently with the Evolution network tech in place include Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego, Louisville, Nashville, and Pittsburgh, among others. With many more locales on the docket for 2018, predicting those “lucky 12” remains difficult.

So, stay tuned to Bandwidth Place, as we cover the emergence of 5G from AT&T, Verizon, and others.

Microsoft introduces Rural Broadband Initiative

The tech industry’s largest purveyors of software typically desire the highest possible number of customers. This remains one of the reasons Google, Facebook, and Microsoft tend to support Net Neutrality and various rural broadband projects. In fact, Google Fiber is only one of the search giant’s initiatives for boosting Internet access.

The CAN logo. Image copyright CAN.

For its own part, Microsoft kicked off 2018 by announcing a new group aimed at boosting Internet access in the rural hinterlands. Called “Connect Americans Now (CAN),” this advocacy group hopes to bridge the digital divide in the underserved parts of the country. News about the new group appeared this week at VentureBeat.

Breaking Down Barriers limiting Rural Internet Access

Besides Microsoft, CAN’s members include a mixture of software industry firms along with other national advocacy groups, like the National Rural Education Association. Various regional associations from across the country are also part of the team.

The goal of CAN simply states a desire to “engage policymakers in a meaningful dialogue on the most effective ways to ensure that all American communities – not just those tied to metropolitan areas – can benefit from high-speed broadband coverage.”

Simple statistics reveal the scope of the broadband access issue in the country. According to data presented by CAN, 34 million Americans lack a reliable and affordable broadband Internet service. Over 23 million of that group currently live in rural areas.

CAN’s Plan for improving Rural Internet Access

The CAN plan for expanding broadband access in the rural regions of the country includes multiple technical initiatives. They hope to leverage the white space spectrum formerly used by over the air television. This approach is combined with improving wireless access, additional fixed wireless LTE services, and satellite coverage.

CAN feels offering this multi-faceted approach helps to lower the overall cost of the Internet service expansion. Obviously, the economic benefits to these regions are numerous. They include everything from improved educational opportunities for children to small businesses being able to expand their customer base.

Communities are also better able to attract new industries – and their high-paying jobs – when providing high-speed Internet service. In short, CAN hopes to ensure the digital divide no longer keeps one part of the country behind the rest.

Microsoft expects to provide personnel and capital expenditures to help bootstrap the effort. Additionally, any profits the company earns from CAN are expected to be reinvested into the network. Stay tuned to Bandwidth Place as we continue to cover CAN’s progress on their goal of championing rural broadband.

AT&T ramping up WiFi 5G Wireless Trials

The race to bring 5G wireless service to consumers continues on an upwards trend. Previously, we told you about Verizon’s plans to rollout 5G service to residential customers across the country. Now, AT&T is ramping up its own 5G trials in Waco, Texas.

News about AT&T latest 5G efforts in the Lone Star State appeared earlier this week at Telecompetitor.

Fixed 5G Wireless is the Current Focus

AT&T’s Waco trials involve the use of a fixed 5G wireless service delivered over WiFi. Users are able to access the service by connecting to it using their smartphone or other mobile device. The Verizon 5G rollout mentioned earlier uses a fixed 5G signal sent using millimeter wave technology suitable for multi-dwelling locations like apartments and condos.

AT&T Globe
The AT&T Globe. Copyright AT&T.

The Waco effort is expected to be AT&T’s largest to date using 5G technology. The technology surrounding fixed 5G is more mature, so Verizon, AT&T, and others in the industry continue to focus on that area. Unfortunately, actually receiving mobile 5G wireless to your smartphone remains a few years away.

Details on the AT&T 5G Waco Trial

For its Waco trial, AT&T is temporarily installing a 5G service at a local shopping establishment called The Silos. This setup includes a variety of WiFi access points where users are able to log on to the service using their mobile device. Marachel Knight, senior vice president, Technology Planning and Engineering, AT&T commented on the trial.

“Taking our 5G tests out of the lab and into real, high-traffic environments like the Silos will bring a fantastic customer experience while helping us learn even more about building a 5G network of the future for both consumers and businesses,” said Knight.

In addition to shoppers accessing the 5G service, vendors and businesses at the Silos will also be able to use the service on their mobile point of sale systems. AT&T gains the benefit of testing their millimeter wave 5G technology in a real usage scenario. The company is also using its new network function virtualization platform – FlexWare – to serve at the router for the trial.

AT&T plans on leveraging the results from the Waco trial to speed up its efforts to offer 5G service to customers by the end of 2018. With the industry’s biggest players moving this new technology out of the lab, there’s little doubt the 5G Wars approach. Stay tuned to Bandwidth Place for additional coverage now and in the future.

Destiny 2 — Curse of Osiris — Can your ISP handle this Online Video Game?

The team behind the most expensive dud in video game history somehow determined that the sequel warranted further expansions – hence the Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris DLC. Well, this Destiny is destined for the disappointment bin, just like the Destiny 2 base game.

Osiris glares at you. Game image copyright Bungie.

The entire playthrough took a grand total of two hours. The climactic end boss was unforgivably easy. You get nine missions with two Strikes – Tree of Probabilities and A Garden World – both of which are decidedly uninspiring. Although the overall game is sparse and the developers should have plenty of ideas for new missions, they continue to rehash ideas from the Destiny base game.

Curse of Osiris and its Internet Performance

We were playing on the PS4, so we got one extra multiplayer map over other releases for a total of three new maps. This is where we had to make sure that the Internet connection was running smoothly. Despite its shortcomings, the one good thing about Destiny 2 remains its graphical prowess. All those new details in the rocks and crags (which add nothing to gameplay, unfortunately) can cause lag and teleportation if you are not careful. We went to to test the connection.

The final stats were more than acceptable, actually. The speed test results were as follows:

Ping – 201 ms
DL Speed – 1.31 Mbps
UL Speed – 0.38 Mbps

This means that none of the faults in the game can be blamed on a faulty connection!

Basically, if you have a Fireteam with any sort of experience at all, you will blaze through the missions and the bosses like candy. The AI even uses the same patterns from previous missions. As stated before, they look much better when they do it because of the graphical upgrades, but this is really a disappointment overall.

Time travel is an element of gameplay that needed to be used much more eloquently. In Curse of Osiris, you travel through The Infinite Forest, a place that takes you to past and future iterations of Mercury. However, it is only available after you finish the campaign. Why? Weaving the campaign through multiple timelines would have certainly taken the story to another level.

A Less than Inspiring Video Game Story

The story itself is uninspiring. Without spoiling the entire experience, let’s just say that there is a huge Wizard of Oz trope here that does not give the same payoff as the source material. There is very little buildup or tension to release, creating no sense of accomplishment when you finally find out who Osiris is and your final purpose in these new missions.

The saving grace here may be the new weaponry you wield once you finish the core Adventures and start working on the Los Prophecies. As you finish each Prophecy, you earn a new weapon directly from Osiris. Once you get these weapons, you actually have a shot at some real fun in the Raid Lair, the one beacon of hope for this new expansion. The puzzles here seem to be more inspired, and the boss is actually a challenge – even with the new weapons.

Overall, the Curse of Osiris expansion for Destiny 2 is a letdown, but we are used to letdowns from the Destiny series. If you are a hardcore fan of the series, by all means go for it. If not, there is no reason to get involved now. You would do better (and spend less money) with just about any of the other AAA FPS titles on the market right now.

Congress gears up to fight the Net Neutrality Repeal

Perhaps the reports on the demise of Net Neutrality were exaggerated? As we hinted at in our earlier coverage of the issue, two congressional groups are taking separate steps to nullify the FCC’s ruling from earlier this month.

The Net Neutrality kerfuffle continues.

Since polls reveal a supermajority of Republican and Democrat voters disagree with Ajit Pai’s repeal decision, any move by Congress to cement the principles of Net Neutrality into law is simply smart politics. It appears this move is already in process with different approaches from both sides of the aisle.

Congresswoman Marcia Blackburn’s Open Internet Preservation Act

U.S. Representative from Tennessee, Marcia Blackburn recently introduced the Open Internet Preservation Act, aimed at codifying into law that Internet Service Providers aren’t able to block or throttle content. However, the bill does let ISPs engage in paid prioritization of content, a point of contention with others in Congress.

Fellow Republican, Greg Walden of Oregon supports Blackburn’s approach. “The bill introduced today kicks off this important conversation, and lays the groundwork for Congress to enact broadly bipartisan principles that will preserve the dynamic internet ecosystem that has driven so much growth and innovation over the last two decades. I hope our Democratic colleagues will rethink their public strategy to ‘litigate not legislate’ as we begin this serious legislative effort,” said Walden.

Chris Lewis, VP of the open Internet lobbying group, Public Knowledge, feels Blackburn’s bill doesn’t go far enough. “Americans should demand nothing short of a full restoration of net neutrality protections. Fortunately, Congress can achieve this by supporting the proposals to overturn the FCC net neutrality repeal with a CRA Resolution of Disapproval,” said Lewis.

Senator Ed Markey’s Resolution of Disapproval

The Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act introduced by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey looks to reverse the FCC decision on Net Neutrality. The CRA allows Congress to overturn any federal agency’s ruling by a simple majority vote.

“Without strong net neutrality rules, entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses, activists and all those who rely on a free and open internet will be at the mercy of big broadband companies that can block websites, slow down traffic and charge websites fees in order to increase their profits,” said Markey. As such, a similar resolution is being introduced in the House.

With Net Neutrality expected to play a role in the 2018 mid-term elections, consequently it will be interesting to see politicians navigate the minefield of public opinion regarding their Internet access. Therefore, stay tuned to Bandwidth Place as we continue to cover this vital issue affecting all Internet users.

Mass Effect Andromeda and its Internet Performance as a MMORPG

Mass Effect Andromeda has a multiplayer element, and in our humble opinion, it’s awesome. Instead of going head to head—which we secretly hoped for—players must work cooperatively to take out wave after wave of brutal alien forces. Players must also complete objectives for the Andromeda Initiative while killing enemies.

Mass Effect Andromeda. Image Copyright EA.

Even if you carry out the task first, you must kill all of the enemies in the wave to move forward. The maps, objectives, and difficulty vary, but they all stay true to the flavor of Mass Effect as a whole. Players choose between four different difficulties, and from easiest to hardest they are: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

This article discusses our Internet speeds while playing multiplayer. We conducted several speed tests at two different times of the day using two different speed test tools: our very own at Bandwidth Place and another service. We are running on Spectrum, which advertises a minimum of 60 Mbps for our particular internet package.

Mass Effect Andromeda: Multiplayer Internet Speed Tests

Before Gameplay, 12:00 p.m.

We ran a few tests to get baseline speeds before playing any co-op and found the following:

Another Internet Speed Test

58.96 Mbps

68.81 Mbps

35.37 Mbps

29.41 Mbps

Note that these speed tests were taken from a local server in Ohio on an alternate Internet speed test service and using a Washington, D.C. server on Bandwidth Place, so that might be why there is a discrepancy in speed. (Editor’s note: Although the Port 8080 speed test issue probably influenced these results.)

During Multiplayer Gameplay, 12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

The following speeds were taken at random intervals during gameplay:

Another Internet Speed Test

46.52 Mbps

55.07 Mbps

47.14 Mbps

28.39 Mbps

36.32 Mbps

37.01 Mbps

38.74 Mbps

35.16 Mbps

There was a pretty big difference in numbers with every test, but we were surprised that the last speed test on the competing site did drop around the same time as BWP. Even though there was a significant difference in the numbers, we were having virtually no noticeable lag during gameplay.

After Gameplay, 1:35 p.m.

We also ran some speed tests after playing, and here were the results:

Another Internet Speed Test

51.11 Mbps

40.55 Mbps

We played pretty early in the morning as well (or late at night, depending on how you see it), and ran a few speed tests to see if there would be a big difference in speeds. Here are the results.

Before Gameplay, 1:00 a.m.
Another Internet Speed Test

90.22 Mbps

91.69 Mbps

49.19 Mbps

50.75 Mbps

Imagine our surprise when we saw speeds up to 91.69 Mbps before playing! Especially since our internet speeds are typically around 35 Mbps – 60 Mbps (with 60 being our supposed minimum). Spectrum was definitely surprising us. Unfortunately, they did not last through gameplay, but the speeds were still better overall than they were at noon.

During Multiplayer Gameplay, 1:15 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.
Another Internet Speed Test

62.18 Mbps

72.04 Mbps

68.43 Mbps

65.29 Mbps

48.12 Mbps

37.36 Mbps

46.98 Mbps

40.60 Mbps

The speeds during gameplay were also very good, and only dropped about 5-25 Mbps, depending on the testing site and time. That’s definitely not bad.

After Gameplay, 2:45 a.m.
Another Internet Speed Test

84.22 Mbps

41.39 Mbps

Mass Effect Andromeda Multiplayer Speeds: Conclusion

The only conclusion we determined is if you want the best Internet speeds and performance while playing multiplayer co-op, you should play late at night – Midnight or later. While your own speeds vary based on your location, bandwidth throttling, ISP, Internet package, and other variables, expect those speeds to go up late at night.