Is Google Project Fi the New Wireless Standard?

With all the hubbub about Google Fiber, the search giant’s super fast Internet and Digital TV service, you might have missed the news about Project Fi, Google’s new wireless Internet service. So is Project Fi essentially the wireless version of Fiber? Perhaps, but if you were hoping for something faster than 4G LTE wireless service with unlimited data available in your town soon, don’t get your hopes up.

Google Fi

Google’s scope for Project Fi appears to be smaller than Fiber. And considering the slow as molasses speed of Fiber’s nationwide rollout, this appears to be more proof of concept than a wide commercial service.

A Closer Look at Google’s Project Fi

In its simplest terms Project Fi is a mobile wireless service only available — for now — on Google’s Nexus 6. It is designed to primarily provide voice and data over WiFi on public hotspots or from your home network. When unable to find an appropriate hotspot, it leverages the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile, seamlessly switching between the two as needed.

Google chose the “other” two major wireless carriers in the U.S., because they were the first to offer WiFi calling as part their service. Considering that Project Fi is primarily a hotspot-first type of wireless service, this move makes sense. The expectation is that a user won’t notice when they are being switched from WiFi to Sprint to T-Mobile — even during a voice call.

An Internet speed test conducted by CNET over 4G revealed Fi boasted download speeds that averaged around 6MB and upload speeds at a surprisingly high 9MB. While not super fast, they definitely compete with lower-end home Internet service.

Innovative Pricing Scheme

One of Google’s major reasons for introducing Project Fi is to trigger innovations in how wireless services bill their customers. As such, you pay $10 per each GB of data with no extra charge for tethering, and you get a monthly credit for any unused bandwidth. The basic service costs only $20 per month, which also includes unlimited texting in the US and over 120 countries.

How To Get Project Fi

Since Project Fi is still in an incubation state, spots are limited. First off, you’ll need a specific version of the Google Nexus 6 smartphone, model number XT1103. You also need a Gmail account, used when you request an invite from Google.

You will be asked to enter your ZIP code when requesting an invite, and if the service is available in your area, you’ll either be able to transfer your existing phone number or request a new one.

The ultimate hope for Project Fi is that it forces the major wireless carriers to also offer simpler pricing, including credit for unused data. Stay tuned!