Google's Project Fi beefs up its cellular service with the addition of a third carrier partner

Google's Project Fi beefs up its cellular service with the addition of a third carrier partner
When you're thinking about getting into the cellular service business, size matters. You need bandwidth sufficient to meet user needs, not to mention coverage widespread enough to not leave them searching for a signal when they need it most. As a result, it's little surprise that in the States there's only a handful of big names in the game. When Google sought to set up shop as a mobile carrier last year, it made the smart move of not trying to build its own network, and instead lease access to existing cellular systems – why build from scratch when you can use something that already exists? And while this kind of arrangement is nothing new (we call such carriers that operate on an existing network MVNOs), the way Google went about it for Project Fi was special because it tapped into not one, but two networks: T-Mobile and Sprint. Now Google's announcing a major expansion as it adds support for a third, bringing U.S. Cellular into the mix.

Project Fi stands out among MVNOs because it's able to intelligently connect to the best network available at any given time, while seamlessly jumping between them. If T-Mobile's signal cuts out for you, a Project Fi phone can keep your connection going by switching to a Sprint tower. Now with the addition of U.S. Cellular to the list of Project Fi's carrier networks, it's like your backup has a backup itself.

While U.S. Cellular is the smallest of the nation's big five carriers, adding it to Project Fi could still be a big win for Google, especially because the company's LTE network operates on lower-frequency 700MHz and 850MHz bands – these have the advantage over higher-frequency bands of penetrating further into buildings and dense urban areas.

Project Fi users will start getting access to U.S. Cellular's network over the course of the next several weeks. They shouldn't notice anything different on their end – except maybe even more reliable cellular signals.

source: Google

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19 Comments

1. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

I don't think Fi's gonna keep up. Google needs to throw away their ego, can't expect everything from them to be popular and successful (apart from strictly related Android features and products) just because they're Google.

4. sgodsell

Posts: 7377; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

So it's only AT&T and Verizon left. I wonder which one is going to come on board next with Fi?

7. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

But they're attempting something new and innovative. If everyone had your mindset, we'd all still be using analog landline phones.

9. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

There's a difference between attempting something new and innovative, and attempting something for the sake of egoism. Judging by your comments, if everyone had your mindset then businesses would exist without any business sense.

10. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

If paying $10/month for a GB of data is part of something "new and innovating", then you have some weird concept of the terms quoted.

11. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

You do realize that when I was saying new and innovative, I was implying about the business model that had once competing companies cooperating with one-another where they no longer have to worry about redundant coverage in the same area and can now focus resources on covering more remote areas benefiting both the businesses and the consumer. I am excited that I've saved near $250 in just a few short months after switching from Verizon, but I don't view the pricing plan as part of my initial statement that identifies it as new and innovative.

16. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

If/when Fi has to switch networks, is it noticeable or actually "seamless"? I'm seriously considering switching from Verizon. Just too expensive anymore, and I seem to have goofed and moved into an actual VZW dead zone at home. I'm talking no signal, to 3G, to 2 bars of 4G at best (even after updating the PRL). My employer allows me to expense $50/month for cell phone usage... if Fi is reliable, by switching I'd stand to basically have free cell service.

17. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I notice no disruption when it switches between service providers, but I have to be honest, Fi's quality is unique to the individual, I cannot promise you that your place of residence and work will get proper cell coverage. There are coverage maps that you can check out, but I have very poor signal at my work where both Sprint and T Mobile maps show 4G coverage in that area. Thankfully I have wifi in my office. Fortunately, you can sign up for Fi contract free and it's as easy as clicking a few in app buttons to cancel your subscription. The service is cheap enough for you to risk a month of service. Your biggest hurdle is if you own a Nexus Phone or not. If you already have a Nexus 6 or newer then you're set. If not then it's a much more costly gambit. The Nexus 6P is a phenomenal phone, but it's expensive, bulky, and three quarters of a year old. I got mine back in November and it still performs like a champ, I highly recommend you get it unless you absolutely must have the latest and greatest on the market in which I would suggest you would wait for the 2016 Nexus to hit the market.

20. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Thanks for the insight! Luckily I have WiFi at home and work, and both T-Mo and Sprint seem to work at least as good as VZW and AT&T in my area when traveling between the two. Still have about 6 months to go paying on my current phone/contract, so I've seriously been considering the 6P then as there should be some stellar deals by that time. Or, I may just go with the newest Nexus... been feeling the upgrade itch.

3. torr310

Posts: 1659; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Hope it will be compatible with more phones!

5. sgodsell

Posts: 7377; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Phones needed to have wifi AC and LTE cat 6, plus some other frequencies supported, and last but not least the software. So since more and more phones are going that route. Even the mid range, and now it's moving down to the low range devices. So I can easily see it coming to more and more devices.

6. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Just one more small step in the right direction. Now they just need to include more phones on their program to attract consumers, Grow their user base and that'll attract the likes of AT&T and Verizon.

12. torr310

Posts: 1659; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

By the way, Fi isn't for data hungry people. I use 6 to 10GB of data and all big 4 carriers seem to have better plan for me than Fi.

13. justrt

Posts: 446; Member since: Jul 10, 2014

True.. Hey, don't you have WiFi home? How do you use so much data?

15. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

lol, I used to run up 100GB+ a month when I had unlimited data from Verizon, but that's also because I didn't have home internet and had everything tethered to my phone.

21. torr310

Posts: 1659; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

I do have wifi at home. I am having unlimited data on Verizon. I do update software,.watch youtube, and stream music on my phone while I am outside. If some people use Kodi or BT, the data usage may be much more than I do.

14. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Yep... data used over WiFi doesn't count against you. So, for people who have home WiFi and WiFi at work, the savings should be immense.

18. emcdonald75

Posts: 160; Member since: Nov 07, 2012

I just need for the cost to be $5/GB and for Google to add C-Spire as another network.provider. Then I'm sold!

19. tokuzumi

Posts: 1907; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

I use too much data, so Fi is very expensive for me. I went to StraightTalk, and get 5GB for $42.XX (if you enroll in auto pay, you get a $3/mo discount). I end up saving money compared to Project Fi.

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