Project Fi is a mobile virtual network operator by Google, providing phone, messaging and data services using both Wi-Fi and cellular networks belonging to Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Three. The service was launched on April 22, 2015, for the Nexus 6 through invitations only. The invitation system was dropped in March 2016, and support for additional devices, including the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, was introduced in October 2016.
Project Fi automatically switches between networks depending on signal strength and speed. It automatically connects to Wi-Fi hotspots with data encryption through an automatic VPN. Phone calls transition between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. With all networks combined, Project Fi covers more than 135 countries around the world.
Plans are based on a flat rate, in which a subscription costs $20 per month for unlimited calls and messaging plus a customizable data allowance costing an additional $10 per gigabyte. Money for any unused data is credited back to the user’s account, while overuse of data costs an additional $10 per gigabyte in proportion to actual usage. A Group Plan, which lets users add members to their subscription, costs an additional $15 per user per month, and offers features including data overview, data notifications, monthly allowances, and the ability to pause users’ data usages. A data-only SIM card can be used on supported tablets.
On January 17, 2018, Project Fi announced “bill protection” which caps the charge for data at $60 if you use more than 6GB of data in a billing period. If the data used is greater than 15GB, then Fi may slow the data speed to 256kbps. The user can avoid the data slowdown by paying full price for the data used at $10 per GB. The “bill protection” also works with group plans maxing out the data charge at $85 for two people and $120 for three people and $140 for four people. The rate for unlimited calls and text is not affected by the new “bill protection” plan.
Project Fi has received positive reviews. Critics who tested the service for six months praised its pricing strategy, especially the money-back feature for unused data. They also enjoyed the “seamless” transition between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and one critic enjoyed the customer service experience. However, the service received criticism for the limited number of phones supported, calling Project Fi “irrelevant” if users don’t have and don’t want any of those devices.
- Project Fi was announced exclusively for the Nexus 6 smartphone on April 22, 2015, with support for Sprint and T-Mobile. Due to high demand at launch, the service required that interested users have an invitation, which were gradually released throughout summer 2015. The invitation system was dropped on March 7, 2016. U.S. Cellular was added on June 8, 2016. Three was added on July 12, 2016. In October 2016, Google added support for the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, and later introduced a Group Plan, letting subscribers add extra members to their plans.
- Project Fi automatically switches between networks depending on signal strength and speed. It automatically connects to open Wi-Fi hotspots while securing data with encryption through an automatic VPN. Phone calls, if placed over a Wi-Fi connection, will seamlessly transition to a cellular network if Wi-Fi coverage is lost. Project Fi users can use Google Hangouts on any phone, tablet or computer to call and text.
- Project Fi also has begun to support VoLTE as part of a staged/beta rollout.
- With all of its networks combined, Project Fi’s service covers more than 135 countries and territories around the world.
- Monthly plans are flat fee-based, paid at the beginning of each monthly billing cycle. It starts at $20 per month for unlimited calls and messaging. Money for unused data is credited back to the user’s account, while overuse of data results in a charge of $10 per gigabyte. While outside the United States, cellular phone calls cost $0.20 per minute, data costs $10 per gigabyte, while texting is free. A data-only SIM card can be used on tablets and other compatible devices, including the 2013 Nexus 7, Nexus 9, and iPad Air 2. The devices must be compatible with the T-Mobile network, and users can add up to 9 data-only SIM cards in one account.
- A Group Plan, which allows users, referred to as “managers”, to add other people, referred to as “members”, to their subscription, costs an additional $15 per user. Group Plans let managers view data usage by member, set data notifications, add monthly allowances, and pause members’ data usage. In June 2017, Group Plans were updated to feature “Group Repay”, in which Project Fi automatically calculates each of the members’ individual shares of the bill and allows for easy payments. Such payments can be a fixed amount, an individual’s total usage, or only for data usage above the standard data allotment.
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