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.