Google has finally confirmed the rumors that have been circulating for months; it is starting a wireless service, called Project Fi. The service, which is invite-only to start, uses a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular networks for calls, texts and data. The service uses Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks, offering unlimited talk and text with customizable data buckets.
For now, the only phone compatible with Project Fi is the Nexus 6, which needs a special Project Fi SIM card to operate with Fi, which utilizes the best connection of Wi-Fi, Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks at any one time to provide the best service possible. It is able to handoff calls between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and vice versa. The service works on the mobile carriers’ LTE networks, where available.
So the big question is: how much does it cost? The base plan, which includes the unlimited talk and text, costs $20. You then add as much data as you need at $10 per GB. For example, a 5 GB plan would cost $70/month. One thing that makes Fi unique, compared to other national carriers, is if you don’t use all of your data in a particular month, you get a prorated credit on your next bill for whatever data you didn’t use. The credit works out to $1 per 100MB so on the aforementioned 5GB plan, if you only use 4.2 GB in the month, you would get an $8 credit on your next bill. Conversely, if you go over your data allotment, Google adds a prorated amount for the extra data on your next bill. Thus, if you use 5.6 GB on a 5 GB plan, you would have an additional $6 charge on your next bill. Project Fi isn’t the first wireless carrier to announce such a “pay only for the data you use” plan, Republic Wireless announced a similar plan just days ago. Project Fi’s data plans include coverage in more than 120 countries at the same rates as in the U.S., though data speeds are limited to 3G outside of the States.
What about the phone cost? If you already have a Nexus 6 that you’ve previously purchased, you can use it on Fi. If you need a Nexus 6, you can buy one through the carrier for $649 for a 32 GB device or $699 for 64 GB. You can also do a 24-month payment plan, costing $27.04 or $29.12 monthly for 32 GB or 64 GB, respectively. There are no annual contracts required and no early termination fees, unless you leave before paying off the phone, in which case the balance of the phone payments becomes due.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the game-changer that many people were hoping for when rumors of a Google wireless service were circulating. If you don’t use much data, you can get 1 GB for $30, which isn’t a bad deal, but $70 for 5 GB of data isn’t a great deal, and Fi doesn’t offer an unlimited data plan. The biggest benefits of the service appear to be the use of two networks instead of one and being credited for the data you pay for and don’t use in the month. Other than that, there’s not much to be excited about with Project Fi.