Where Google Project Fi Sucks


Where Google Project Fi Sucks

Posted on Dec 13, 2016 by Paul White

I have learned the hard way where project Fi sucks.  After being a happy customer for about 1 month,  I decided it was time to get my wife switched over.  Here is where things start to go south.

Upate 2/17/2017

After all the crap I went through,  I can honestly say switching to Project FI was a good decision, scroll to bottom for summary.

Back Story

My Wife moved to Nebraska back in February 2016.  Immediately after moving she ditched her old Number (Area code 832), and got a new cell phone and a new local number ( Area code 402) with service on Verizon.  I stayed put in Houston, and wrapped up business with my clients in addition to getting the house prepared for sale.  Finally Mid November we were all moved.  Of course there is no way I am giving up my 832 area code phone number.  All my clients have it, and it would be a pain to update it.  Except my bill was not cheap. About $93 / month after taxes with Tmobile for unlimited voice, text and data.  That and Tmobile has no towers in nebraska, so you are running on whatever peering agreements they setup with other providers, which I found was not very good.  Thankfully I was able to suvive thanks to their 4G LTE cellspot.  But when I would leave the house, I wouldn't get calls, or data coverage.  It was time to switch carriers.

I decided to make the switch to Project Fi and get a Pixel Phone.  The process went smooth. No problems porting my number in, the service has been excellent.  After 3 weeks, I decided it was time to get my wife transfered into Project FI.

I took precautions and called them to verify there was no restrictions on area codes or anything, they said there wasn't.  So I went ahead and bought my wife a Pixel Phone and prepared to transfer her to Project FI. The phone arrives and we try to do the transfer, but it won't take her number. Says it can't be ported.  I had previously already ported her number from Verizon to Google Voice, to beat the end of her billing cycle.  The number was clear and ported to Google voice, and was unlocked and ready to port again.  

Here is where things go south

After requesting a call from Google and wasting over 2 hours on the phone with their support, they told me that they couldn't port her number into project fI. I got off the phone pissed to say the least.  My wife didn't even care to keep the number, but I wanted to at least try to get her a number with a local 402 area code.  I just started trying different numbers in the transfer box, and noticed that none of the 402 numbers were being accepted.  I was starting to see a pattern here.  Google claims there is no restriction based on Area codes, but that is BS.  

At this point I was convinced there was a block on 402 numbers in Project FI, but I wanted to know why.  More digging lead me to a discussion where a person said Project Fi uses T-Mobile's backend to manage numbers, and since T-Mobile doesn't have any towers in Nebraska, they can't get 402 area code numbers, and this means Project Fi can't get 402 area code numbers either.  So any area code that T-Mobile doesn't support, Project Fi won't be able to support either.  You have to select a number from an area code that T-Mobile does support.  But to make things even worse, when you try to let Project Fi just assign you a number it won't even give you that option, I suspect because it knows the local area code you are located is not one they support.  

Your only option is to port in a number you already control.  So I went to Twilio,  deposited $20 into an account and spent $1 to buy an 832 area code number.

Then I started the process of porting my new Twilio Number out

https://support.twilio.com/hc/en-us/articles/223179588-How-do-I-port-my-phone-numbers-away-from-Twilio-

Then I went back to Project Fi and said I wanted to port that number in.  They accepted the number.  Now I am just waiting for Twilio to release the number from my account.  Hopefully this goes well. 

What about my 402 area code number?

It seems the way to keep that number is to set it up on a Google Voice account. But the catch is you can't have both a Project FI and Google Voice account at the same time.  You have to setup a separate Google Account to manage your Google Voice Number, and they use the hangouts dialer and forwarding to forward those calls to your new number.  Pretty messed up huh?  

What other Area Codes does Project FI not support?

So we know 402 doesn't work, and I am willing to bet 308 and 351 probably won't work either.  If you have a number that T-Mobile or Google Project Fi wont' port in share in the comments. I want to start a DB documenting all the area codes that are being left behind.  

 

UPDATE 12/16/2016 3:44PM

Here I am 3 days later and the number from Twilio still has not ported over to Project FI yet.  Twilio got the request and I have approved the port out request, and this is noted in Twilio's system.  But Project FI still has  not ported the number over.  I have Called Project FI's support which has been great.  We have tried separating my wife from my account, restarting the activation process. but it still hasn't gone through yet.  I just created a ticket on Twilio's side to see if there was anything on their side holding up the port out request. Now waiting for a response.  Project FI has elevated me to their advanced Porting team that resolves issues with porting, but I was informed it could take 2 days for them to get back with me.  

UPDATE 12/17/2016 2:40PM

The weather here in Nebraska has gone bad, with snow and ice, which is not the time you want your spouse out driving without a cell phone.  She hasn't had a working cell phone for 5 days now.  I can't afford to wait for this number to port over from Twilio.  So I got the idea to just have Google assign a temporary number to her phone so she will have service while we wait for her permanent number to port over.  They said yes this was possible.  So within 1 hour my wife's phone should start working.  Then once the port for her long term number goes through it will take over the phone.  I wish someone at google would have suggested this as an option before.  I will post an update once her phone is active.

UPDATE 12/17/2016 4:54PM

Its been over 2 hours and still that temporary number they were supposed to assign my phone is not activated yet.  I am starting to really loose confidence in Google over this.  When I log into  I have requested to call to see what the next steps are and I have yet to get a call back after 5 minutes.

UPDATE 12/17/2016 5:10PM

I finally got that call back from Project FI.  I explained to the person on the phone the issue.  At first he looked on my account and didn't have any record of the previous person I talked to.  Then when I dug up her name from the email, he suddenly found the notes from her.  He put me hold to talk to a specialist about my issue. I have now been on hold for about 5 minutes, waiting for him to come back and update me.  When he finally came back he said my issue had been assigned to a member of the porting team and was being worked on.  To me this sounds vague.  He said they would have to cancel the port in order to assign a temporary number to my line.  But if they do that I might lose the number for good.  I decided to contact Twilio to see if the port can be cancelled from their side, so I can keep the number and try again at a later date.  I am now waiting to see if Twilio can cancel the port from their side.  If I don't get a response by morning, and if the phone isn't working by then, then I will have no choice cancelling the port and possibly losing the number.

UPDATE 1/13/2017 9:25AM

I realized I haven't updated this blog in a while, so I wanted to update everyone on how things are going.  First The number did not get ported in time.  But turns out Google Fi, could just issue me a number from my area code of choice ( as long as its an area code they support ).  So I had them assign my wife's phone with a Houston 832 number, and a minute later the phone started working.  I didn't loose the number during the port, and I will try again later.  

Its been almost a month now that both me and my wife have been using Google Project Fi.  The coverage has been excellent.  I have setup both her an me with 1 GB of data each and with 7 days left in our billing cycle we have only used 0.84GB total between the two of us.  Granted we both spend most of our time at home or work where we have WIFI access, but even the times when we are on LTE and are active on our phones, the data usage has been very conservative.  Even with all the issues, I have had.  If I could do it all over again, I still would still do it.  My only feedback for Google is to please hire only americans for your support specialists.  That and also please educate your specialists in what is and is not possible with Project FI.  This would have saved me lots of time and stress.

Another thing I have realized is that T-Mobile's coverage in Houston is pretty bad.  Most of my clients are still in Houston and they call me daily.  A couple of them specifically are on T-Mobile, and when they call the voice quality is terrible.  I always thought it was me, but turns out it was actually them.  

Update 2/17/2017

Its been about a month since my last update.  Thur far I am very happy with Project Fi.  I decided to abadon porting in a number from Twilio.  Not worth the trouble.  For those of you who think the cost of Data with Project Fi is expensive you are correct.  $10 per GB is expensive compared to most other carriers.  But at the same time If you don't use very much data, its the cheapest solution out there.  I have 3 days left in this billing cycle.  Between me and my wife we have used a total of 390 MB of data.  That means as of right now my data costs is about $3.90  Which means our combined monthly bill is right now under $40 minus taxes.  At this rate  We will save about $1800 per year with Google Project Fi.

Update 5/1/2017

I'm still with Google Project Fi.  Couldn't be happier.  No Dropped Calls,  Good voice and data coverage every where I go.  We have started to use a little more data, so our combined bills after taxes is averaging about $50 / month.  The Pixel Phones are good.  Battery life is not an issue.  I work at day at my home office, take calls, drop my son off from school.  Goto the gym where I watch about 45 minutes of netflix on my phone, then another 15 minutes of internet radio ( on the gym's free WIFI ).  Pickup my son from kid care.  Make a few more calls. By the time I get to bed around 10 PM I still have about 20% battery remaining.  


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HuskerPowered | Mar 2, 2017 12:00 AM

I'm in Nebraska and switched to Project Fi the end of 2015.  I ran into the same problem and couldn't port my 402 number.  Like you, I also didn't become aware of this until it was too late.

For those trying to wrap their head around why you can't port your number, it's because of (what I believe is) an archaic law.

Initially, as many of us painfully remember, your cell phone number was not your number, it belonged to the carrier.  If you had Sprint and you wanted to switch to Verizon, you couldn't keep your number.  It had nothing to do with GSM/CDMA; it was a way for the carriers to make it more difficult for you to leave.  You can go, but you can't take your number with you.  People weren't thrilled about it but, whatever, it was just a number and people changed numbers all the time.

Fast forward a few years and cell phones had become much more prevalent, and as more time passed, we had cell phones for longer (i.e. in the late 90s, nobody had the same phone/number for 10 years.  By the late 2000s, this was a different story).  A person's cell phone number had become a part of their identity.  Those 10 numbers, in their unique sequence, became a very permanent component of someone's contact info.  As people began to move more (college students going away with cell phones, persons moving around for business, etc) it became a real problem to get a different number.  So, in 2004, you could switch carriers and keep your number!*

*The company you are switching to must have a physical location in the state from where you want your number to originate.  In this case, T-Mobile needs to have an office (not just a tower) in Nebraska.  They don't.  This is an extension of the above law that originally wouldn't let you keep your number at all.  It's been revised to say: you can switch and keep your carrier as long as the new carrier has an office in the state you'll be living.  If you're in Houston and moving to a different house in Houston but also want to change your cell phone carrier, no problem; you can move to the new house, get a new provider and keep your number.  If you're in Houston and moving to Nebraska and you're on Verizon.  You can move to Nebraska and keep your Verizon number.  If you're in Nebraska and you just want to switch to Project Fi, you can't.  Well, you can.  But you can't have a 402 number.

Why? This right here is the whole rub: Google uses the towers of three carriers: T-Mobile, Sprint and, now, US Cellular.  Sprint has offices in Nebraska.  US Cellular has offices in Nebraska.  T-Moblie does not.  So, how about just port it through Sprint?  Problem solved!

You'd think.  Unfortunately, Google "uses T-Mobile exclusively for porting for Project Fi".  I think this needs to change.  I think T-Mobile should be allowed exclusivity as originally negotiated EXCEPT in those areas in which T-Mobile does not have a presence; at which point, Sprint and/or US Cellular will port those numbers.

T-Mobile isn't loosing anything; if Sprint of US Cellular get some sort of kickback, they agree to pay a small, microfee to T-Mobile.

Lastly...I love Project Fi and so does EVERYONE I know who has it.  There's a lot of discussion regarding cost of 1GB.  It's $10/GB.  IF YOU USE IT.  You're not switching to ATT or Sprint or Verizon here.  It's not the same game.  I use 2 GB, maybe.  I used to use 18GB.  Why the difference?  Because I'm on Project Fi.  That's what they do.  They find and connect you to WiFi automatically. (for those, like me, wary of big brother and my data being publicly available on those open hotspots, Google automatically creates a VPN over any network that doesn't meet certain security requirements). You'll know this because there will be a key icon on your phone that shows up next to your wifi connected icon  You will download very little data over cellular.

 Project Fi ONLY CHARGES YOU FOR WHAT YOU USE!  I pay $20 flat fee for phone/text and $20 for 2 GB/mo - this is actually broken down into $1/100mb.

Sometimes I use 900 mb.  So, my bill is $29.  Why?  Because I didn't use the last 100mb of that GB, I don't get charged that dollar; and I didn't use any of the 2nd GB, so I don't get charged any of that $10.

In 15 months of use, my bills average $35.  Sometimes I used a lot of cellular data in the summer if I'm at a ball field, but it's never been more that 3-4GB.  My highest bill has been $56.

I'm a millenial.  I use my phone.  All the time.  For EVERYTHING.  

I've lived in Miami, New York, Portland, Puerto Rico and Nebraska.  Translation: I've had ATT, Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular.  Project Fi wins.  Hands down.  Not even a question.

They need to make it clear about their porting issues - or just port with Sprint if TMobile isn't there.  

The con: yes, I'm STILL upset about not having my 402 number.  I'm holding out hope that I'll be able to port it someday but, by then, I'll probably be too attached the new one.  Meh.

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