Google’s Project Fi wireless service has long allowed its subscribers to take their phones to more than 135 countries without having to worry about getting a huge bill for international data usage.
That’s because international data is simply included in the company’s plans without a surcharge. Until now, though, you would only get 2G speeds when traveling abroad, but as Google announced today, Fi now offers its subscribers high-speed international data access at speeds that are at least 10-20x faster than before.
Instead of capping rates at 2G speeds, your phone will now simply use the fastest available network, whether that’s 3G, 4G or LTE (and at times, 2G may still be the fastest available network, of course). “Users will get the fastest connection available on a given network, speeds aren’t capped,” a Google spokesperson told me. “In some cases, that would be LTE networks, in others it would be 3G networks (depending on roaming agreements). Different countries will have different speeds, which is why we set a range.”
Google says it is able to offer this new feature thanks to the addition of international carrier Three to the Project Fi network, for example. As a Google spokesperson told me, Three will power Fi’s high-speed data access in many European countries, but the company also worked with several other carriers to provide its faster international coverage.
With this move, Google will put new pressure on T-Mobile, which was the first carrier in the U.S. to offer 2G-capped international data without a surcharge, and others to remove their caps as well (though T-Mobile does offer LTE-speeds in Canada and Mexico already). While 2G is still fast enough for basic email access and using Google Maps, for example, using it for anything else quickly shows how painfully slow 2G connections are. Sure, you could use Instagram, but only if you have a lot of patience (and no, I have no idea how well Pokémon Go would work on these slow connections.
Project Fi plans start at $20 per month for unlimited calls and texts, with an additional $10 per GB of data used. If you end up using less data than you paid for, Google will refund you the difference.