Android Headliner: Why Google’s Project Fi Wouldn’t Work in Europe

April 25, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

Here at Android Headlines, we are of course a US-centric site however, we also cover news from all over the world. We have a small following in the UK and across Europe and I myself, am a Brit. This week, Google took wraps off of their much-rumored MVNO, Project Fi. Essentially a network built for today’s world, Project Fi is certainly an interesting concept, and one that makes a lot of sense in the US. What about across the pond, in the UK and Europe? Would Project Fi make sense here? I think it would, but not in its current model in the US, after all things are very different here in the UK, and the Project Fi that Google have built for the US wouldn’t work here in the UK, or elsewhere in Europe.

First of all there’s pricing. The idea of Project Fi – right now, at least – is to bring your own device, and that’s taking off here in the UK, too. I have a SIM only plan from Three that costs me £23 a month and includes unlimited 4G data, 2,000 minutes (along with 5,000 Three-to-Three minutes, which covers my girlfriend and most of my family and friends) and 5,000 texts. Unsurprisingly in 2015, I barely scratch the surface on that 5,000. Project Fi on the other hand costs $20 to begin with and then $10 on top for each gigabyte of data. While not expensive, heavy data users need not apply, which is strange coming from Google, one of the biggest names on the Internet.

Price wise things work out very similarly, especially when you take into account different networks across Europe and in the UK, but what about this whole WiFi thing? From my own personal experience in the UK, WiFi is pretty abundant, but it’s like a different warlord owns a different patch. My local pub and many coffeeshops here use “The Cloud” which is free but you have to sign in every time you use it. The same goes for O2 WiFi in many places near me, and BT Openzones just flat out charge you for access up and down the country. As such, the idea of using WiFi networks like these seems like much more hassle than it’d be worth in the long run. Having said that, Google have integrated a VPN into Project Fi which is a great idea, seriously this is just a brilliant choice on their part, I’m sure a lot of Europeans would love a VPN built into their network.

The one thing I can really see as an advantage of Project Fi for us Europeans is the idea of hopping from one network to another. I moved from O2 because there was no 3G in my home town or much of the surrounding area, to Three to gain 4G at home and strong 3G pretty much everywhere else nearby. I also slashed my bill in half. However, I sacrificed a strong signal no matter what. While on O2 I might have cursed the lack of data, but at least I could make a phone call or send a text wherever I might be. To get the best of two networks sounds brilliant, especially in more rural areas of Europe where networks create a sort of patchwork quilt rather than overall coverage.

Right now, Project Fi is just an experiment and as we all know not all of Google’s experiments become products. Just ask the Nexus Q how busy they are these days. It’s a bold move, especially in the US where the big networks like AT&T and Verizon practically bully the market, but whether or not it works is something that remains to be seen. Here in Europe however, I can’t say that Project Fi would be all that revolutionary in its current form.