Google Unveils Own Cellphone Network

John Lister's picture

Google has revealed the full details of its cellphone network. It will use a combination of space leased from existing cellphone firms, as well as WiFi hotspots to create the network.

The service will be dubbed Project Fi. Initially it will only be available to users of Google's Nexus 6 phone, but that will only be used short term as an experiment. If all goes well, it's likely to be expanded to other Android phones.

Project Fi Consists of WiFi, Sprint and T-Mobile

Google will act as a mobile virtual network operator, meaning it leases space on existing networks. In this case, the leased networks are from Sprint and T-Mobile, the number three and four networks in the US market. That's a similar approach to that used by firms such as Virgin Mobile.

The difference is that Google will also route calls through the Internet via selected WiFi hotspots. These will be any hotspots that are not only free to use (with no password required), but that Google has verified as having a suitable and reliable speed. It says more than a million hotspots meet this criteria.

WiFi Routing is Automatic

Any calls routed via WiFi will be encrypted to ensure security. Unlike services such as Skype, users won't need to run special apps or change any settings. The idea is that you simply dial, and the phone routes the call via WiFi if available; if not, it defaults to the fastest available network connection of either Sprint or T-Mobile. (Source:

Google believes this approach will mean users get voice service in a much wider range of locations than is available through a single traditional network.

Unused Data Earns Rebate

The Google pricing strategy will work out cheap for casual users but may be too pricey for people who use a lot of data. All customers get unlimited voice calls and text messages for $20 a month. They'll then pay a separate fee equivalent to $10 for every GB of cellular data they use during the month.

Unlike many cellphone plans, there's no fixed data cap and users only pay the data they actually use. They will have to pay up front for their chosen amount (in gigabytes) but will get a rebate for any unused data. For example, Google says anyone that pays $30 at the start of the month for the right to use 3GB but only uses 1.4GB will get a $16 rebate. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Are you attracted by Google's pricing structure and wider coverage? Do you trust it to maintain privacy with calls, texts and data use? Do you think it's a smart idea to build around existing cellphone networks even though those providers are a form of competition?

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Average: 5 (6 votes)


bobf0648's picture

It sounds interesting, and given a little proof, might be a usable service. Wait to see.

guitardogg's picture

Think they'll eventually support iPhones? The price is good, and only paying for data used is a plus.

Chief's picture

If Google's service turns out to be viable it will serve to force other providers to lower their rates. Sounds like a win-win.

JimBo's picture

Your article was a bit confusing to me on rating? Is the minimum monthly required payment to be $20 or $30? If it is $30 at the start of the month then does that $30 include 1GB or 3GB of data? I think you might be trying to convey that it will cost $50 if you want to include 3GB of data and the base monthly minimum, including a refundable 1GB's worth, is $30, right? (Three gig is about the size of just one of my HD photographs. Lots of bucks, not much data.)

Oh, is this but another cell carrier wanting to cash in. Well, they might have something but, in effect, their service doesn't appear to be much different from what is already out there and everyone knows Google is a snoop when it comes to looking at what you are doing. That said, Google has made some progress in keeping people (other than themselves) out of your private business with the use of encryption and the Black Phone so how much of a jump would it be for them to give us 100% encrypted cell service with calls placed between two Google phones and 50% encryption to phones off their net. Given the state of today's world that would surely be a major selling point for their products and I'm sure they easily have the computing muscle to handle real time encryption which would give them a very big leg up on Apple. Apple might not ever be able to catch up with this.

Alas, our government is not too keen on encryption (they like being able to use our clear personal info as bait to catch the bigger fish) but Google has made some progress with this and if anyone can do it, they will be the ones to make it so.

But, they still need to work on internal privacy. They can start their own initiative to secure personal information (by not retaining or collecting it) or wait for the political fallout to force them to after they suffer from a major breach. The thought here is that nothing is perfect and they will eventually suffer a major hit. Once new reporting laws are passed, companies will not be able to hide breaches that have occurred. (FYI - The one congress is currently working one is way too watered down to be of much good but they are trying.)

snelson2000fl's picture

there is a soft 5 gig data cap, but unlimited text/calls - $25/month. They use wifi and Sprint in the background.