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Project Fi's winners and losers

Matt Hamblen | April 27, 2015
Project Fi, Google's Wi-Fi and cellular network service announced Wednesday, can variously be described as low-cost, disruptive, cutting edge, tantalizing, confusing, even awesome.

For 5GB of data on Project Fi with talk and text, the total would be $70, which is a tie with what T-Mobile offers for talk, text and 5 GB. But T-Mobile also has an unlimited plan for talk, text and data at $80 a month.

What's interesting about Project Fi is that both the cellular carriers working with Google have unlimited plans, while Project Fi does not. "It's very interesting that Project Fi is not unlimited, which is Google's tacit admission that no matter how much the public wants it, bandwidth costs money," Entner said.

Menezes used his own experience as a T-Mobile customer to note that he and his wife have two unlimited voice, data and text lines for $100 a month. In a recent month, he paid his half — $50 — for use of 4 GB of data and unlimited voice and text, which would have compared to $60 on Project Fi.

He also noted that volume discounts for data on both AT&T and Verizon can drop to below $10 per gigabyte. (Example: Two smartphones on the AT&T Mobile Share Value plan with 10 GB of shared data is $130 a month, while Project Fi would cost $140 a month.)

Winner: Frequent international travelers

Some of the major U.S. carriers can't compete with Project Fi on international wireless voice and data services.

Google's plan offers international coverage in 120 countries, and it's included in the same $10 per GB of data users pay for service in the U.S. Data speeds, however, are limited to 256 Kbps, which is considerably slower than the 10 times faster (or more) LTE data speeds seen in the U.S.

For international calls, the cost is 20 cents per minute, which is considerably less than prices of as much as $1 per minute on many carriers. Texts are unlimited within the $20 per month rate, according to Google's FAQ.

Google has set up roaming arrangements with carriers in all 120 countries, For other countries, users will need a SIM card that works with a specific carrier. For the international business traveler who visits 10 to 20 countries on Google's list, "this is a very, very good plan," Entner said.

T-Mobile also offers competitive international roaming, although data speeds are somewhat slower than what Google is offering, Entner said.

Small businesses with up to five workers, whether in the U.S. or traveling internationally, might benefit as well with Project Fi, especially if each user is using less than 4 GB of data per month, Entner said.

Menezes said that Google has essentially created a flat-rate structure for international usage, which could eventually push AT&T and Verizon to do the same.

 

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