Project Fi: Everything you need to know about Google's mobile phone network

 
Joe Hall
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Google's network will only operate in the USA at first. (Source: YouTube)

After venturing into manufacturing handsets and providing broadband, Google is making its first move into the mobile phone network business. "Project Fi" is the name given to Google's latest piece of disruptive technology.

Here's everything you need to know about the internet giant's new mobile network.

How does it work?

Currently only available on the Google Nexus 6 handset, Project Fi rents the networks of US operators Sprint and T-Mobile and offers users the chance to switch between the two depending on the strength of the surrounding signal.

The network will also allow users to make calls via Wi-Fi without the use of a specialist app. Project Fi automatically hooks you up to nearby Wi-Fi networks, but will seamlessly switch you back over to one of Sprint or T-Mobile's LTE networks if that cuts out.

Where is it available?

Project Fi currently only has coverage in the US and some parts of Canada, although users are offered Wi-Fi coverage in more than 120 countries at the same rate of $10 per month.

How do I sign up?

You have to be invited. Users can request an invite to the "Early Access Program" but Google says it is only currently sending out "a small number of invites each week".

How much does it cost?

Project Fi comes with a flat fee (excuse the pun) of $20 a month for calls, texts and Wi-Fi use, and a further $10 per GB for all cellular data you require. Compared to other networks in the US, that's cheap. For example, for one GB of shared data on a Verizon plan customers have to fork out $30.

So this is bad news for the telecom industry?

"Disruptive" is the word you're looking for. To shake things up even more, Google will only charge Project Fi customers for the data they actually use, offering money back if you paid for data you didn't need. That's not an option currently on offer from the major wireless carriers.

Google explains: "Since it's hard to predict your data usage, you'll get credit for the full value of your unused data. Let's say you go with 3GB for $30 and only use 1.4GB one month. You'll get $16 back, so you only pay for what you use."

So Google is about to dominate telecoms as well as the internet?

Well, not quite. Project Fi is still in its infancy and is ultimately reliant on networks built and run by external companies. Building its own network from scratch would be a much bigger undertaking. While it will undoubtedly cause ripples, analysts suggest this could be the first stages of the internet giant easing itself into the market and may not result in a huge splash right away.

What has Google said?

The company says its Wi-Fi calling option will be available on the go by automatically connecting your phone to "verified" and "reliable" hotspots. Read Google's full blog on its project here.

We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it's Wi-Fi or one of our two partner LTE networks. As you go about your day, Project Fi automatically connects you to more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots we've verified as fast and reliable.

Once you're connected, we help secure your data through encryption. When you're not on Wi-Fi, we move you between whichever of our partner networks is delivering the fastest speed, so you get 4G LTE in more places.

Anything else?

Yes. Call the number on Project Fi's "experience" page and you'll be welcomed by none other than Lionel Richie. Seriously, here's the number: +1-404-978-9316.

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