Project Fi, Google’s mobile virtual network operator that piggy-backs off Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile’s network, may be gearing up to finally launch group data plans.
The service initially began invite-only in 2015, but slowly expanded to anyone with a Nexus 6, 5X, and 6P earlier this year. What makes Fi special is its ability to move you to whichever network has the fastest 4G LTE, 3G or 2G. Also, when you’re on Wi-Fi and your signal weakens, you’ll automatically transition to the fastest available data connection. If you’re on public Wi-Fi, Google layers your connection with its own Virtual Private Network to protect against snooping.
The latter feature is called Wi-Fi Assistant, which also identifies open public Wi-Fi networks and connects to them automatically. It recently rolled out to non-Project Fi Nexus devices. Fi also offers low data rates — it’s $20 for 2GB of data, and you are returned the cost of whatever you don’t end up using. If you go over, you pay for the amount you used in total. The service prizes itself on simplicity.
Android Police has detected several references to group data plans in a teardown of the latest update for the Project Fi app. Keep in mind that this information isn’t official, so it’s unclear when or even if Google is planning on making group plans a possibility on Fi.
Group plan subscribers on Project Fi are expected to have administrators who are comprised of the owner and managers, according to the update teardown. Managers are appointed by the owners, and it seems as though group plans are paid for by a company or individual — one account controls everything for other accounts. For example, the owner can set a data allowance for the group. If someone goes over this allowance, administrators will be alerted and can see how much additional data was used.
Administrators can turn off data for another user in the group plan, and they may be able to set how long data is turned off for until it reactivates. Admins can set it to turn on when the next billing cycle begins, or after a specific number of days. Users may be permitted to reactivate their data whenever. Having your data shut off is annoying, but it’s likely for families and corporate members who may want to strictly control kids or employees’ data usage.
Administrators may be able to remove an account from the group plan, at which point it seems as though the user may automatically switch to an individual plan. It’s a placeholder until the user decides to terminate the account or keep the individual service. Users can also kick themselves out of group plans, but the bill always falls on the account owner, who will be responsible for it.
There isn’t much else that’s clear about group plans, but it’s clear some sort of groundwork is being laid out for an upcoming launch. Google does have a hardware launch coming up with two rumored Pixel smartphones, Google Home, and a 4K Chromecast, so it’s quite possible we may learn more about a Project Fi expansion on October 4.