Carrier WiFi

Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here

Google has revealed "Project Fi," its bid to combine 4G cellular networks and WiFi to offer Americans at home and abroad the fastest possible service at a low, flat-rate.

Many of the details have been an open secret for a while, with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) confirming that it was working on a project in March. The search giant will operate as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), combining Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. 's 4G LTE networks with more than 1 million public WiFi hotspots to try and offer users the fastest possible connection at all times. (See Google Confirms Scaled-Down MVNO Plans and Google Searching for 5G Wireless Engineer.)

This WiFi-first network will default to 4G LTE cellular when it can't find a suitable hotspot to access. "When you're not on WiFi, we move you between whichever of our partner networks is delivering the fastest speed, so you get 4G LTE in more places," Google's Nick Fox, VP of Communications Products, says in a Project Fi blog.

In a move that could put further price pressure on AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Google is making the service a low-cost, flat-rate affair. Twenty dollars a month covers talk, text, WiFi tethering and international coverage in more than 120 countries, and then it's a flat $10 per GB for cellular data while in the US and abroad.

Google is also planning to credit users back for unused data each month. So if you buy 3GB and only use 1.4GB, you'll get $16 back.

For more on mobility, visit the dedicated mobile section here on Light Reading.

The company has also done a lot of work around connectivity and linking the services to a user's devices. It claims that you won't drop a call when moving between WiFi and cellular. Calls can be continued moving between phones, tablets and laptops. "So the next time you misplace your phone, you can stay connected using another screen," Google says.

The catch at the moment is that early users can only get the service on the Google Nexus 6. "It's the first smartphone that supports the hardware and software to work with our service," the company explains in the blog.

Google's wireless ambitions are wide-ranging, from 5G to balloons! So it would seem unlikely that it will be the only Android smartphone to offer the service.

The success of the project, however, likely hangs on adoption by other vendors. Google's ambition is to get more people connected to the Internet, which generates more revenue for the company through ads served up on the Internet. If people flock to Fi, it could also help Google to get even more people on the Android OS.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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Phil_Britt 4/27/2015 | 11:13:57 AM
Re: Need details on the technology You are right that battery usage will be critical. Even with phones promising longer battery lives, what is promised is only if all stars are aligned right in the heavens. People are always looking for outlets at wireless hotspots. Note: Bring a power strip and you are royalty.
Gabriel Brown 4/24/2015 | 11:36:45 AM
Re: Need details on the technology How the device selects the best network is a good question.

It'll be very interesting to see how well it works in practice, how frequently switching actually occurs, the impact on battery life, how the network pages users, and so on. 
GregW333 4/24/2015 | 9:36:59 AM
Need details on the technology Just picking the strongest RF signal does not guarantee the best end user experience.  

Also, can anyone elaborate how TCP et al handle switching carriers and networks "seamlessly"?
MikeP688 4/23/2015 | 9:40:46 PM
Re: Why do MNOs play ball? I know I do--and I know I'm part of a profound trend that will be the "norm"--the question is whether Google's foray will be the "final answer" to the onslaught from Facebook with what it has going on with WhatsApp. 
steve q 4/23/2015 | 9:38:08 PM
Re: Why do MNOs play ball? For one thing the voice over WiFi will be a plus for the new iPhone. And with Verizon not looking at the same things it could work. People like to use WiFi to save money with the cost of the data for the cellular company.
steve q 4/23/2015 | 9:38:07 PM
Re: Why do MNOs play ball? For one thing the voice over WiFi will be a plus for the new iPhone. And with Verizon not looking at the same things it could work. People like to use WiFi to save money with the cost of the data for the cellular company.
MikeP688 4/23/2015 | 5:49:52 PM
Re: Why do MNOs play ball? Although it is a welcome development, it still does not address some of Google's long-term challenges.   I just saw Google's Numbers..and they're weaker than expected.     How that helps them long-term is a challenge.
DanJones 4/23/2015 | 4:12:27 PM
Re: Why do MNOs play ball? Perhaps when they started working on this it was assumed that Sprint and T-Mobile would be a single operator? Just a thought....
186k 4/23/2015 | 10:49:08 AM
Why do MNOs play ball? You do wonder why the mobile network operators actually play ball with Google. Fine if they wanted to be a normal MVNO on a single network but this flipping between two MNO is something that no one MNO can match and should worry the MNOs. I doubt you'll ever see Verizon or AT&T opting in
KBode 4/23/2015 | 9:18:40 AM
Re: Not quite cooked I think the pricing on some of the prepaid options from other carriers is more compelling, but the fact it floats between networks to get you the best option seems to be what could lift it above the competition. Will be curious to see user reviews and impressions of the app that ties it all together.
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