Google's Project Fi: What you need to know about the network of networks

What it's like to get your service from Google

Project Fi

Google has its hands in a lot of pots, and depending on which phone you use, you may not have known that the search company has also been operating its very own wireless service since 2015.

In the US, mobile contracts are the realm of disliked-but-tolerated companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and others. But now that Google - a company notably less disliked than these carriers - has joined the fray.

Google has officially launched with Project Fi (yes, that's the name), a mobile virtual network operated on the backs of Sprint, T-Mobile, and now U.S. Cellular's LTE networks and, of course, public Wi-Fi hotspots around the country.

You probably have a lot of questions about it and as a customer of Fi myself, I'll do my best to answer them.

What is Project Fi?

Project Fi is the name of Google's network that offers mobile data directly to users, much like every other carrier that's available to choose between.

Of its many innovative aspects, the most eye-opening of Project Fi is its pricing: Google is charging $20 flat per month for talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in 135+ countries, then an additional $10 per GB of data each month.

To give an example, a plan with 3GB of data costs $50 (plus tax) per month. However, if you don't use all that data, Google will only charge you for what you used. So if you only used 1.4 of your 3GB, Google says, you'll pay $16 less than you had originally set out to.

Project Fi

What's better than rollover data? Rollover cash, of course.

Being a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) means Google essentially licenses network infrastructure from other carriers. There are other companies that do this, like Straight Talk, which TechRadar explored in-depth. Straight Talk offers customers phone plans that work off of other carriers' networks.

Google is doing the same here with Project Fi, making itself the middleman between customers and carriers. So although your phone will bounce between T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular LTE services, you'll only ever have to deal with Google when it comes to support and billing.

The company says your device will automatically hop among the available networks and Wi-Fi hotspots depending on which has the best connection. Google counts over a million free, open (and growing) Wi-Fi hotspots in the US as part of its network.

Project Fi

When you're connected to Wi-Fi networks, Google encryption keeps you secure, the company says. And you'll transition seamlessly between Wi-Fi and LTE, even in the middle of a call.