Why Fi?

In our previous post Rocking The Cellular World, I described Google’s foray into the cellular communications market, called Project Fi. At the time, I hadn’t yet pulled the trigger and switched my phone to their program (you can’t really call it a network, since it encompasses several different ones all bundled together). But their program just makes too damn much sense for someone with a lot of international travel in their future (which would be us). So I finally went ahead and completed my application.

Within two days, my Project Fi SIM card arrived in the mail.

FiSim

The instructions said that after plugging in the new SIM, I could use data over WiFi immediately, but it could take up to 24 hours for talk and text to resume working, as my number had to be switched from my old carrier (Verizon) to Project Fi. Concerned about being out of touch for so long (we have a lot of things going on at the moment as we get ready to depart), I waited until early on a Saturday morning to swap my Verizon SIM card with my new Project Fi card. Well, they might have issued an ominous warning, but it actually only took about 90 seconds for my number to port and a cheerful “Your phone is now available for use on Project Fi!” message to appear on my screen.

So far, I don’t see any difference in call quality, which is naturally a good thing. The Project Fi app that installed on my phone is very informative, showing me everything I’d ever want to know about my account, billing, data usage, and customer service and technical support. And I even now have the visual voice mail (for no extra charge) that Verizon was always trying to sell me as a $2.99 a month upgrade.

So what ultimately caused me to make the switch after 18 years with Verizon? The $10 per day per device access fee and $1.79 per minute international roaming rate that Verizon charges for international calling. It’s absolutely absurd to think of paying $10,000 annual phone bills, and I didn’t really want us to have to keep buying local SIM cards and changing phone numbers every time we run a new courtesy flag up the mast. With Project Fi, we can keep the same phone number for all our international travel with no additional fees, and calling rates to the US that average 20 cents a minute. Check back in a few months for a review on how it’s working!

I just wish I knew how they came up with the name Project Fi. As far as we’re concerned, it should be Project Awesome 🙂

5 thoughts on “Why Fi?

  1. Robin Scurr

    So glad to see people talking about Project Fi for sailors! I can testify that Fi works just fine outside the US, as I gave it a try on a recent bareboat charter in the USVI and BVI. (My wife and I plan to retire and live the cruising lifestyle in less than 3 years!) I agree that this is a great option for international travel – enter a new country and you get a “Welcome to (insert country name), your Google Fi service works here!” message. My Verizon service told me calls in the USVI were going to be $1.79/minute! I couldn’t get the Fi SIM installed fast enough!

    Data rates are limited to 256 kbps outside the US, but this is plenty for email/Facebook/web browsing/navigation, etc. The service even includes WiFi hotspot at the same $10/GB charge, and data-only SIMs for iPads, etc.

    The service worked as well as the BVI cell system would allow. The bigger problem was getting a cell signal. That was spotty, depending on where the tower was. At The Bight, Norman Island, I could look up at the tower on the top of the hill but have either NO service or 5 bars by moving a few hundred feet! My travel companions enjoyed having the hotspot feature – I was the “Pied Piper of Internet Service” when walking around the islands, with 3 people staying in range to use the service.

    Interestingly, all the usage in BVI showed up as being in Jamaica? No problem, mon, as it all billed out the same way. I figured it would show up in the app in the same totals as US data, but international was tallied separately. The math all works out the same in the end … FYI, phone calls to BVI numbers and US numbers all cost the same $0.20/minute. international SMS is unlimited. iMessage will use data. No extra fees for data-only SIMs, it just adds to your overall data use. One odd thing – more charges for “Jamaica” have been added to my bill the month after my trip? They say “Delayed charge” and total $1.93, part for calls, part data. I may have to ask about that!

    If you’re a heavy data user or want speed to stream TV, you may not want this, but for the basics, I think it’s fantastic! Facebook videos worked fine, as well as Skype video.

    ps. No Google Fi service yet in the Bahamas. 🙁

    pps. There was an article in the BVI paper that the government has not yet approved the RF frequencies needed to upgrade to LTE data, so it’s all 3G there?

    Reply
    1. Robert Post author

      Thanks for the great info! We felt the first time we saw Google Fi that it was the solution we were seeking, and we’re looking forward to trying it out in the months to come. We just hope Google stays the course and continues supporting this experimental new approach to cellular service.

      Reply

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