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New Google project promises cheap wireless service

Posted: 04 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wi-Fi  Project Fi  wireless phone service 

Google has initiated Project Fi, the company's latest endeavour that aims to provide cheap calls and Internet by intelligently connecting users to the fastest wireless or cellular network as they move using existing technology for $20 a month.

According to Google's blog, Project Fi automatically connects to more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots and secures data through encryption. When not on Wi-Fi, Fi moves users between partner networks (currently Sprint and T-Mobile) to deliver faster 4G LTE speeds. The basic, no contract Fi plan includes unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, low-cost international calls and Wi-Fi tethering. Users would then pay $10 per gigabit for data.

Google did not return requests for comment, but several analysts suggested that Google will employ more money and stature than novel tech to make Fi take off. The tech giant will be "price-bombing through their sheer size and impact," Linley Group Senior Analyst Loring Wirbel told EE Times.

"Google will not really be a deployer of unique Wi-Fi technology, but instead will be a public-network manager of hotspots in the same way many wireless operators like Verizon already have done," Wirbel said.

Google is likely using Qualcomm's FSM99xx family of chips that link LTE-U and Wi-Fi through carrier and link aggregation in the 5GHz band. A service like Fi needs a "technology elevator" and Qualcomm has been working on this technology for next-generation cellular for years, Envisioneering Research Director Rick Doherty said.

"Wi-Fi itself has gotten that robust. 802.11 has gotten robust enough that it can survive consumer quality voice calls and soon consumer quality video calls," Doherty noted, adding that migration from .11n to .11ac standards shouldn't be an issue.

It will be important for Google to have wide support and testing on different frequencies and features, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights and Strategy. Carrier aggregation and multiple frequency support, particularly on the RF side, are available from vendors such as Qualcomm.

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