What is Google Fi? Read up on plans, coverage map, phone compatibility – USA TODAY

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Choosing a cell provider is a careful balancing act between cost and coverage, especially when there are so many options. There are many providers to choose from, but Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are the most popular. 

According to Statista data from 2023, AT&T is the leading provider in the U.S. with a market share of about 46% of wireless subscriptions

Google threw its hat in the ring in 2015 when it introduced its telecommunication service under the name “Project Fi.” Here’s how it works.

What is Google Fi?

Google Fi Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator, which means it’s a phone plan under the larger T-Mobile network. According to Google, Fi Wireless users bypass data traffic deprioritization, which means their phone connection won’t slow when lots of other people are using the network in the same area.

Google Fi Wireless also connects users to the W+ network when available, which uses Wi-Fi networks to improve connection. Data used while connected to W+ counts toward monthly data usage. 

How does Google Fi work?

Google Fi works by connecting your phone to the strongest available network. In some locations, that may be Wi-Fi. In others, it could be a 4G LTE network. Google Fi plans also include 5G network capabilities on supportive Android and iPhones.

“When multiple carrier networks are available, Fi will move you to the network that our analysis shows will give you the best Fi experience at your current location,” Google says.

When the best option available is a Wi-Fi connection, Google connects the phone to an open Wi-Fi network it identifies as high-quality and secure. Users can only connect to the W+ network automatically if they have the Google Fi VPN enabled, which helps provide data protection on public Wi-Fi networks.

Google Fi covers data within the U.S., Canada and Mexico and certain plans cover international data in over 200 destinations. “Google Fi is not intended for extended international use,” a Google spokeswoman told USA TODAY in 2022. You may lose international coverage if you’re traveling for more than a week or two.

Users can buy a phone from Google or bring their own, though the platform discloses iPhones are still in beta testing and require some extra setup. You won’t be able to switch between networks or use Wi-Fi calling, but iOS users can use other features of Google Fi, like texting, calling and using 4G LTE.

Who owns Google?:Behind the Alphabet and YouTube owner

How much is Google Fi a month?

Google Fi offers three plans – simply unlimited, unlimited plus and flexible. 

Simply Unlimited includes unlimited data, calls and texts and 5 GB of hotspot tethering, but slower data after 35 GB per person is used. Unlimited Plus includes unlimited data, calls, texts and hotspot tethering and other perks like a year’s worth of YouTube Premium and 100 GB of cloud storage. Data slows after 50 GB per person is used and hotspot tethering counts toward your monthly data usage. The Flexible plan has users paying $10 per GB for data used, which slows after 15 GB per person.

The Unlimited Plus plan (Google’s recommended option) is $65 a month for one person. Here’s a glance at how the prices of each plan compare:

For a single person:

  • Simply Unlimited: $50 per month
  • Unlimited Plus: $65 per month
  • Flexible: $20 per month

For a family of four:

  • Simply Unlimited: $80 per month
  • Unlimited Plus: $160 per month
  • Flexible: $65 per month

For a family of six:

  • Simply Unlimited: $120 per month
  • Unlimited Plus: $240 per month
  • Flexible: $95 per month

What network does Google Fi use?

Google provides coverage through the T-Mobile network. Google Fi is an MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator. An MVNO does not own a mobile spectrum license but sells mobile services under its brand name using other networks.

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