Rumors have been swirling that Google would launch their own phone service, and today we have official confirmation on their plans.
Instead of building their own towers, Google will lease their connection on partner networks, Sprint and T-Mobile at launch. This makes Google an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), and brings them the advantage of not having to build out a competing network. The trick to Project Fi will be in delivering consumers a seamless transition between data and calls over Wi-Fi and on partner networks.
In subscribing to Fi, you will automatically be connected to the best possible network in your area. If Sprint has the best connection, your phone will connect to that network. Move to an area that’s rich for T-Mobile, you’ll jump ship to the UnCarrier. The consumer no longer has to mess with coverage maps or swapping SIM cards.
Pricing seems reasonable for an MVNO. There’s a base $20 a month fee for unlimited Talk and Text, with coverage for 120+ countries. Data costs $10 per GB. Want 4GB of LTE data, that will cost you $40. As the service moves between different carriers, it’s not very easy to do rollover data, instead Google is opting for cash back. If you pay for 4GB, but only use 2GB, you will receive a bill credit for $20.
Project Fi will start as an invite only service, and will only be compatible with the Nexus 6 at launch. It’s unclear how Google will move forward with other handset manufacturers, or what the certifications process for Fi compatible handsets will resemble.
If you’re looking to save a little cash on your cell plan by shopping an MVNO, you can now pick up a Cricket Wireless SIM card kit for $9.99 on Amazon.
The kit comes with a Nano SIM and adapters for phones that use Mini and Micro SIM cards. Just about any unlocked GSM device should work as Cricket is powered by AT&T’s network. It’s the beauty of a Bring Your Own Device program, you don’t have to buy a new phone when you switch networks.
Plans start at $35 a month for unlimited talk, text, and “slow data” with 2.5GB of LTE “fast data”. This pricing includes taxes and fees.
You can grab a Cricket kit here, and read their full press release below.
Low cost carrier sweetheart Straight Talk is now starting up a Bring Your Own Device program for GSM enabled tablets.
Announced via their blog, users can BYOT and sign up for monthly data plans starting at $15 a month for 1GB of GSM data with support for LTE where available. Plans top out at $50 a month for 5GB of data. Not a bad way to keep your mobile data habit fed.
Market disruption. Seriously. Think about it. Do people buy standalone GPS devices anymore? No. We “Google Map” things on our phones. Google has done a remarkable job of examining popular business models and then turning them on their collective ears.
Rumors are flying that in addition to offering up home data connections, Goog could be considering a move to also offer up wireless services in areas where they’re already flirting with fiber. It makes sense as they’ve already invested in the server infrastructure in those areas, but they’d need to work out deals on wireless spectrum if they’re going to operate their own towers.
They could also be considering some sort of MVNO like WalMart does with Straight Talk, but augmented with their own data services. We know Google has worked to try and light up cities with WiFi in the past, and combining WiFi with another carrier’s traditional cell network, and tying that to Google Hangouts/Voice could be a really compelling solution. Much like Vonage or Republic Wireless, you’d have a proper phone number which works over WiFi, and switches to traditional 3G/4G when you’re no longer connected to a hotspot.
Is a Google Phone service one you would consider? Drop us a comment below!
Ok. This is a pretty significant shot across most of the other MVNOs out there.
FreedomPop has been working for a while now to popularize entry-level free data. You buy a relatively inexpensive portable modem, and you get a small pool of data every month for free. Need more data, pay extra. They’re bringing that same business model to smartphones starting today.
The phone isn’t the most exciting handset ever, the HTC EVO Design 4G, but it does come with actual 4G in the form of Sprint’s aged (but still pretty quick) WiMAX network. The good news is it’ll only run you $100 to pick it up. For that price it’s REALLY decent hardware.
FreedomPop has built all of its services off of that network, so I would image that if you’re not in good WiMAX coverage that you’ll fall back on to Sprint’s improving 3G infrastructure. As Sprint has been going through their “Network Vision” clean up, I personally saw a decent little bump to network speed and reception in LA.
The FreedomPop plan starts you off with 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data per month. Stepping up to unlimited voice and texts adds $11 a month. You can bump up data as well, 2GB for $20, 4GB for $35, even 10GB for $90.
We’re starting to see some pretty cut throat competition from the smaller virtual carriers, with Republic Wireless recently scoring the Moto X, but no one has had the guts to offer up a free plan yet. Now if only we could start talking about some LTE FreedomPop…
Republic Wireless is a scrappy alternative MVNO cell carrier. Offering insanely cheap plans starting at $5 a month, they’ve been a favorite around the budget conscious shoppers looking for smartphone service. The trick to keeping plans that cheap is Republic is a hybrid service. When out and about your phone uses Sprint’s network, but when you’re in range of WiFi your phone will use data to make calls like Skype or Vonage. I had the pleasure of reviewing their Moto Defy back in February.
Now the problem with Republic for many folks was the lack of devices. The software to enable hybrid calling has to be built into the ROM, so you can’t bring your own phone. Until now, the only phone they offered was the Defy, which was a fine Gingerbread device, but not the sexiest phone compared to other low cost carriers.
Well that’s going to change really soon. Republic Wireless has scored the Moto X, and they’re going to sell it for an incredible $299 off contract. From the Republic Wireless website:
The Moto X will retail at $299 (plus taxes and surcharges) from the Republic Wireless store. That’s right – we took the hot, new Moto X, added Republic’s great Hybrid service and priced it at $299 with no contract required. That’s a price that’s, like, impossible to match anywhere in the industry. How did we do it? The phone is $299 because we are footing the bill. Period. This is NOT a $299 phone. Take a quick look around the web and look at “no contract” pricing for the Moto X.
In the industry this is typically known as a subsidy, but we’ve added a twist. We are bringing down the cost without holding you to a contract. We’re doing this because we have trust in our members…and we have confidence in our product and service. Contracts are inherently built on a lack of trust…and a lack of confidence in your ability to bring your A game every.single.day. We believe in a better way…the way things should be.
That’s a pretty bold move on the part of such a small player, and I’m stoked to see companies like this look for ways to compete against larger carriers.