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.
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