Google Debuts ‘Project Fi’ Wireless Service

Internet & TV, Utilities
Google Debuts 'Project Fi' Wireless Service

Google on Wednesday introduced Project Fi, its own wireless service that, after a small monthly fee, will charge users based solely on how much data they use each month.

The program, which will at first be limited to owners of Google’s Nexus 6 smartphones, is a partnership between the technology giant and established wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile, which have agreed to carry the mobile traffic Project Fi creates.

The service will be able to switch automatically between Sprint and T-Mobile, depending on which has the strongest signal at any given time and place.

Project Fi will cost a flat rate of $20 per month, and $10 for each gigabyte of data a customer uses.

“As mobile devices continually improve how you connect to people and information, it’s important that wireless connectivity and communication keep pace and be fast everywhere, easy to use, and accessible to everyone,” Google Vice President Nick Fox said in a blog post. 

Fox wrote that in addition to Sprint and T-Mobile connectivity, the Project Fi network incorporates “more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots we’ve verified as fast and reliable.”

The $20 flat rate will cover talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in more than 120 countries. Users will then select the number of gigabytes of data they expect to use and pay $10 for each. They’ll receive a refund each month if they use less.

Many existing U.S. wireless plans require consumers to pay for a set amount of data that rolls over at the end of each month. In many cases, that means people are paying for data they never use.

People interested in trying out the plan — which, again, is going to require a Nexus 6 at least for now — may request an invitation to take part in its Early Access Program. They should first check to make sure they live somewhere that Project Fi has coverage.

Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai has said the company expects its wireless project to be a relatively limited experiment, not one aimed at disrupting the wireless industry (which may explain Sprint and T-Mobile’s reported willingness to play along).

“While Google may not be targeting huge numbers of subscribers, their entry into this market is very important, because it has the potential to disrupt the wireless industry in much the same way Google Fiber prompted changes in the cable and broadband industries,” Rajeev Chand, head of research at investment bank Rutberg & Company, told The Wall Street Journal.

Fiber promises super-fast 1-gigabit per second speeds. Google Fiber is active in three metro areas and was announced for four more earlier this year, with others on the way. As it rolls out, other Internet providers have begun making their own high-speed options available.

Doug Gross is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter @doug_gross and on Google+.


Image via iStock.