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Prepaid Operator Profile: Project Fi

Project Fi Logo
This is one of Prepaid Phone News' series of comprehensive US prepaid mobile operator profiles. These profiles cover all the major US mobile operators' prepaid plans as well as MVNOs which offer a good value.

Overview: Project Fi  is Google owned MVNO which uses a combination of the T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular networks plus WiFi .  Project Fi is unique in that it automatically switches a user's service between the three networks and WiFi depending on availability and signal quality. Other multi-carrier MVNOs like Straight Talk assign a carrier to each account at time of activation.

Project Fi launched in April 2015. Initially invite only, it was opened to all in March 2016.

Technology: GSM, CDMA and EV-DO on the 850 and 1900 Mhz bands. 3G UMTS, HSPA and HSPA+ data on the 850, 1700 and 1900 Mhz bands, LTE on bands 2, 4, 12, 25, 26, 29, 30, 41, 66 and 71.

Plans: Project Fi offers one monthly plan: $20/month for unlimited calls and messaging. Data is charged as used at 1¢/MB ($10/GB). Data charges are capped at $60/month (plus $20 for calls and messaging) after 6 GB. After 15 GB in a month data speeds are slowed to 256 kbps

Family Plan: Additional lines are $15 each for unlimited voice and messaging. Data is shared between all lines. Data charges are capped at $85/month for two lines, $120/month for three lines and $140/month for four lines.

Data Only SIMS: Customers with a voice and messaging Project Fi plan can add up to 9 data only SIMs to their account. Data only SIMs are free and there's no separate monthly charge for having one. Data use by data-only SIMs is billed to the users main Project Fi account at the usual $10 per GB, 1¢ per MB rate. Data only SIMs use the T-Mobile network in the US and also work internationally.

Taxes and fees: Project Fi adds government point of sale taxes, including state and local sales and e911 taxes and a Regulatory Recovery Fee to the non-data portion on of the bill. For a single line taxes and fees have been reported to be between $2 and $9 per month.

Use with Google Voice and Hangouts: Google Voice users switching to Project Fi need to be aware of the following:

  • A Google account can have a Project Fi number or a Google Voice number, but not both. 
  • You can transfer your Google Voice number to Project Fi. If you leave Project Fi your number can be switched back to Google Voice.
  • Google Voice users who get a new Project Fi number or port another carrier number will lose their Google Voice number permanently. If you want to keep your Google Voice number you need to transfer it to a different Google account or sign up Project Fi with a Google account that does have a Google Voice number.
  • Google Voice numbers can't be forwarded to Project Fi numbers and Project Fi numbers can't be forwarded  to Google Voice numbers.
  • Project Fi users can use Hangouts to make and receive VoIP calls, SMS and MMS with their Project Fi number on the web or with any Android and iOS device. Project Fi users will not be able to use the Google Voice app or website.
  • Like Google Voice, Project Fi supports call blocking, voicemail transcription and call and message history.
  • The following Google Voice features are mot available with Project Fi: SPAM filtering, call recording, call switching, forwarding texts to email and automatic blocking of outgoing caller ID (you can still block your outgoing Caller ID on calls by dialing *67 + the phone number).

WiFi Calling is available on all three Project Fi networks. Project Fi automatically connects to some open WiFi networks. Data on open networks is automatically encrypted by a Project Fi VPN. Calls started on WiFi automatically switch to cellular if the user moves out of WiFi range

VoLTE: VoLTE (Voice over LTE) is currently supported on the T-Mobile network only.

Tethering: Tethering or using your primary Project Fi phone as a WiFi hotspot is supported.  Tethering from a device with a data-only SIM isn’t supported.

International Rates: All plans include unlimited international text messaging plus unlimited calling to Canada, Calling to other countries is available with the same pay per minute pricing as Google hangouts. Click here for international calling rates.

Sample rates per minute for calling international mobile phones from the US are:
  • Canada 0¢ (unlimited calls are included with all plans)
  • China 1¢
  • France 6¢
  • India 1¢ 
  • Mexico 2¢ 
  • Philippines 12¢
  • United Kingdom 1¢
Project Fi has international direct dialing (no access code required).

Project Fi International Messaging: no extra charge, unlimited international messaging is included with all plans

International roaming: Project Fi offers roaming voice, SMS and data roaming in over 170 countries. Calls are free in Canada and and 20¢/minute in other supported countries. Outbound and inbound texts are free in all supported countries. Data costs the same 1¢/MB internationally as it does domestically.

Coverage: Project Fi uses a combination of the T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular networks and the three network's roaming partners. Data while roaming off the three primary networks is often 2G or 3G  You can use Project Fi's coverage map to see detailed block by block coverage.

Devices: Project Fi supports a limited number of phones for use as a primary device. Currently supported phones include all North American versions of the Google Pixel, Nexus 5X, 6 and 6P, the Android One Moto X4, and the factory unlocked Moto G6, LG G7 ThinQ and LG V35 ThinQ. Any unlocked phone that supports the T-Mobile USA network can be used as an add-on data only device.

SIMs: are free with plan purchase on the Project Fi site.

Project Fi data settings: On supported Project Fi phones the data settings are configured automatically and are not user configurable. With add-on data-only devices set the APN to h2g2

How to Activate: 

Project Fi Devices: Activation is free. To activate you need a supported phone, a Project Fi SIM (the Pixel 2 amd 2 XL have an eSIM and do not need a SIM), a Google account. Insert the SIM in the phone, power it on and connect to WiFI. Follow the onscreen prompts to activate. If you have issues use the Project Fi support page for chat or email support or to request a callback. If you have a number from another operator that you want to port to Project Fi there's a porting option within the on-device setup process. To port a number you will need your account number and passcode from the operator you are porting from. See Porting Your Number? How to Find Your Account Number and Password.

Data-only devices: To activate a data-only add-on device Order a data only SIM. Go to the Project Fi website, click the Account tab, then click Manage Plan and click Add data-only SIM. When you get your SIM go to fi.google.com/data and enter the alphabetic code printed on the SIM. Add and select a Project Fi Access Point Name with the APN value of h2g2. 

Auto Renewal: Auto payment is required for Project Fi. Two days before your plan month ends you will receive an email statement. The credit or debit card on your account will be charged 10 days after the statement is sent.

Payment Options: Project Fi accepts credit and debit cards only.

Account expiration: If your payment fails you will receive notifications by email and from the Project Fi app on your phone. You have three days to resolve the issue by changing or updating your payment method. If you fail too make a payment within three days, your service will be placed on hold and you will be unable to make or receive calls or messages or use data. If your don't pay within 60 days after your number is placed on hold your account will be cancelled and your number deactivated.

Account Management: You can manage your account using the Project Fi app or website. Both let you see current and past statements, track data usage, turn data usage alerts on and off, change the debit or credit card on your account, change your billing address, setup call forwarding and block or change caller ID. The app also lets you view voicemail, setup or change your voicemail greeting. The website also lets you view call and text history,

Call Records: Records of text messages and calls for the last six months are available on the Project Fi website and can be downloaded in .csv format.

Call Forwarding, Call Waiting and 3-Way Calling

Call Forwarding: Use the Project Fi app or website to setup or cancel call forwarding. Calls can not be forwarded from a Project Fi number to another Project Fi number or to a Google Voice number.

Call waiting: Call waiting is enabled by default. It lets you place one call on hold while you take another call. When you are on a call and have another incoming call, you will hear a short tone. You'll have approximately 30 seconds to answer before the second caller hears a standard message or is forwarded to voicemail. See your phone manual for specific instructions on using call waiting. The following generic instructions work on many phones:

To answer Call Waiting: To put the first call on hold, press "SEND." You'll automatically be connected with the second call. To return to the first call, press "SEND" again. To switch between the two calls, press "SEND."

3-Way Calling: 3-Way calling is supported . It lets you create a conference call between yourself and two or more other people. See your phone manual for specific instructions on using 3-way calling. The following generic instructions work on many phones:
  • While on the first call, open the dauler and dial the 10-digit number of the second person and press the call button. The first person is automatically put on hold while the call is made.
  • When the 2nd person answers, press the call buttin to create the conference call.
Project Fi "Secret" Codes:
*#06# displays the phone's IMEI (serial number)

Customer Service:

Phone support: There's no support phone number. Instead you request a callback 24/7 on Project Fi's support page. That page will tell you how long you will have to wait for a callback, typically less than 10 minutes.

Chat Support: Chat is available 24/7 on Project Fi's support page.

Email support: Use the form on Project Fi's support page  to email support. Typically replies in 12 to 24 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions Page: fi.google.com/about/faq/

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Project Fi User Forum, Google Plus (unofficial)

Phone Sales and General Information Web Sitefi.google.com.

Project Fi Pros: Inexpensive international roaming, international direct dialing, no extra charge international texting, low international rates, call forwarding, call records, coverage on three networks including U.S. Cellular plus WiFi calling with seamless handoff from WiFi to cellular.

Project Fi  Cons: Limited handset choices. Forwarding to and from Google Voice not supported. Some Google Voice features not supported. Mandatory $20/month for unlimited talk and text whether you need it or not makes it pricy for users who don't need international roaming.

18 comments:

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  1. Excellent profile. I learned how to create an inexpensive family plan with my iPhone and a data-only SIM and VoIP app.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're talking about Google Voice

      Delete
    2. Nope. Any VoIP app should work with the data-only SIM, despite "Project Fi users will not be able to use the Google Voice app". That may only restrict the regular Fi line.

      Delete
    3. You need a Google Voice number for the Google Voice app to do anything useful. Project Fi numbers are not Google Voice numbers.

      Delete
    4. The GV app with a GV number should work with the data-only SIM, right?
      The Vonage app would let you receive and answer calls using your home Vonage number. If you had the limited plan, outgoing minutes count against the limit.
      The Freedompop app would let you make calls and sms using account allotments while using the data sim data rate away from WiFi.

      Delete
    5. Yes, if you have two Google accounts, one on Project Fi and the other with a Google Voice number you could use the Google Voice app with the Google Voice number on a phone with a Project Fi data only SIM.

      Delete
  2. Great job, Dennis. They're often my go-to post when I'm researching the corresponding carrier.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There may be a typo in the Data-only SIMs section. Isn't pricing $10/GB instead of MB?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, let's check into this. I want to be able to watch a 38 second cat video on Youtube without Fi socking me for $610 for the privilege.

      "Isn't pricing $10/GB instead of MB?"

      Delete
  4. Great write up. Thank You. Your operator profiles are the best resource to find the details about a carrier. Would you consider doing a Choice Wireless operator profile: us.choice-wireless.com I receive a lot of family inquires about the this carrier.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Two line data cap is $100, not $85. The two lines is unnecessarily penalized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They should have set the data cost cap at $60/line to be consistent.
      The $35 break for line 2 is just not fair to other users who pay the full $60 ;-)

      Delete
  6. Still too uncompetitive, just like Google Fiber.

    If you're not in it to win it then why even be in it to begin with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Underwhelming domestically, due to a combined network that is still definitely third-place.

      Possibly interesting due to international roaming.

      Delete
  7. Does it still work to port a number to Fi, cancel after one month, and then the number becomes a Google Voice one?

    Google refuses to port my primary cell # and my old landline into Voice. (calling area not supported error) If I can ever scratch up a phone that works with Fi, I would probably do this to move my lines onto Voice. Yes, Fi seems to happily accept porting in my lines.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably not. Project Fi help says some Project Fi numbers can't be converted to Google Voice numbers.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the info, Dennis!
      I'll dig into it further and maybe take a chance.

      Delete
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