Google, in a somewhat uncharacteristically quiet move, has recently opened a public beta release of their new Project Fi MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) service. A quick search on the internet reveals a virtual firestorm over its potential and what it may mean for mobile carrier services moving forward. With some arguing that it will revolutionize the industry almost over night, and others taking a considerably more skeptical posture. In all of this one might stop to think what this might mean for small business owners and shoestring budget entrepreneurs who might be re-considering their current service providers. Let’s consider this option further as I give you a short and simple guide to Google's Project Fi for those who might be considering making a switch sometime soon.
First we ought to establish what Project Fi actually is. Project Fi is not a mobile carrier service or network in and of itself, but rather is a service utilizing the resources of both T-Mobile and Sprint. However, unlike other MVNOs which normally utilize the resources of one carrier service, Google has partnered with two mobile carriers for their Project Fi service. This should, at least in theory, provide the customer with significantly better mobile coverage than one would otherwise have using one of the carriers alone.
Unfortunately, this raises the first con with Project Fi: it only works with the Nexus 6 and the new Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P at this time. These phones have the unique capability to connect to both CDMA and GSM networks, and has the ability to quickly switch between services depending on what network has the strongest signal in a given location. This is why if one were to switch from a GSM carrier like AT&T to a CDMA carrier like Verizon, one would normally have to purchase a new phone due to the hardware being incompatible. Given that Sprint is a CDMA carrier, and T-Mobile is a GSM carrier, this would necessitate hardware that is compatible with both network types. At the time of writing this article, the Nexus 6 is the only phone approved by Google for their Project Fi service, though others are likely to granted approval in the not so distant future.
The second draw back to Project Fi is that it is currently only available with an invite. Though virtually anyone living in an area with a viable T-Mobile or Sprint network connection is welcome to sign up, there is a considerable waiting period between initial sign-up and actually receiving your invitation. Based on various reviews and reports, one should reasonably expect somewhere around two to three months waiting, though experiences may vary.
The unique positives
With all of that being said, one might wonder why a person would consider switching to Project Fi as their service. The answer to that would require an exploration into their pricing scheme. Project Fi is unique among other services in that it offers an incredibly affordable and straightforward pricing system. Currently, one would have to pay $20 a month for “the basics”, which includes unlimited domestic calls and text messages, and unlimited international text messages. One can also pay an additional $10 a month per gigabyte of cellular data used. Thats it. There are no hidden fees, and no charges if you go over your monthly data allowance. If one were to go over their initial data allowance, they will be charged an additional $1 per ten megabytes. However, if one were to use less than their monthly data allowance, their account will be credited $1 for every ten megabytes unused. In simpler terms, you only pay for what you actually use; no more, no less.
At this time, it may make more sense to see Project Fi as more of a concept rather than a mainstream contender for mobile services. The consensus seems to gravitate toward the view that Project Fi serves to force the bigger carriers into re-evaluating their plans and pricing. Carriers in the near future will have to compete by removing or drastically altering their contract systems, make pricing more comprehensive and straightforward, and offer even better services for less money. Ultimately, Project Fi could be good news for everyone regardless of carrier preference.
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