A few years ago I posted about switching to Google Fi, which is an MVNO carrier ( meaning they don't actually have any toweres of their own. The process was simple, and I was happy with the service. Until I wasn't. Now I just switched to Verizon. Here is my story and why many of you might be about to do the same.
First before I get started let me be clear, that I don't blame any of the support staff for this issue. Everyone I talked to was very professional, and did what they could given what level of authority they have to resolve problems. I am a software / web developer. I totally understand the need for these various levels in support to resolve issues. The problem is more in the planning and bad decisions made at the top.
I was huge fan of Google Fi back when it was just Project Fi. If you are the type of person that rarely leaves your home office, meaning you don't need a lot of data, you can save yourself a ton of money by switching to Google Fi. When you are not on WIFI, they use TMobile, Sprint, and US Cellular Tower to provide service. The pricing was excellent. $20/month for unlimited voice and texting + $10/month per GB of Data. Then you can add additional lines to your account for only $15/month. Our family of 3 ( Me, my wife, 11 year old son ), typically only used about 2 GB of data. Meaning our bill was $50 for service plus $20 for data. After Taxes and Fees it was rarely over $80. Before we got my son a cell phone, our Total bill was usually about $50. Considering the same service with other carriers would have cost almost 3X as much I felt pretty good about my decision sticking with Google Fi.
Over the past few months, I noticed that the voice quality was getting bad. First to be clear these are not old phones. We both have Google Pixel 5 phones. These are 5G phones with excellent voice and data quality. It was the point where my wife would call me from her office ( first floor window office ) I couldn't understand anything she said. It was like the voice was being over compressed into something with no fidelity. Imagine if you took all the treble and midrange from your voice. and all you were left with was bass. That is what is sounded like. The biggest problem with this isn't just not understanding what they say. But when you can understand it its how we perceive it. Our ears are trained to pickup on certain tones, and accents as a sign of emotion. The Happy ones tend to be in the higher frequency range. Imagine talking to a puppy. When all you hear is gumbly voice, you tend to associate negative emotions to the conversation. This wasn't just a problem for me, but for my wife who talks to dozens of clients every day. Her clients were going not going to hear her voice but a highly compressed version of her voice that makes you question her intensions.
I contacted Google Fi's Support and after some back and forth, they told me to try manually switching towers using dial codes. Unfortunately these codes only lock you into a specific providers towers for 2 hours before your phone can switch back. Here are the codes in case they help anyone else. Just pull up your dialer and type these in. They will automatically run upon hitting the last character.
Get Current Network Info
# # 3 4 4 6 3 6 # #
Try to Fix Network Issues
# # 3 4 9 6 3 # #
Switch to Sprint Towers for 2 Hours
# # 3 4 7 7 7 # #
Switch to TMobile Towers for 2 Hours
# # 3 4 8 6 6 # #
Switch to US Cellular Towers for 2 Hours
# # 3 4 8 7 2 # #
After some test we found that when we switched to Sprint Towers, the voice quality immediately got better. But there was no way to keep her phone connected to sprint towers permanently. The result was she had to type these codes in every 2 hours to ensure she stayed on sprint towers. Thats not a doable solution. Google Fi didn't have any permanent solution other than to say they will notifiy their engineers, but that means maybe in weeks or months they might come up with something. When she connected her phone to Wifi the voice quality was also bad. Not sure if this is due to the wifi in her office building, or compression audio codecs Google Fi is using. Finally she ended up suffering from 3 dropped calls in a row with a client. That was the tipping point for her. I also was suffering from issues. I planned to hotspot my phone so I could work during my son's swim practices. I couldn't get any signal in the pool area. That was too much for me. I planned to work on my laptop for the 2 hours my son was swimming. Now I couldn't work at all.
I have talked to other people with similar issues. They also reported the same thing, common thing is they are all Sprint and Tmobile customers. This tells me this merging of the two networks is not going as smoothly as they had hoped. Verizon which runs their own network, and is know for their "Can you hear me now" marketing campaigns from years ago. Is still the big dog in terms of Network size and capacity. They know it, and that is why they charge more. Since switching to verizon, I haven't had a single dropped call and the voice quality is excellent. Granted porting my number to verizon and getting my Google Pixel 5 running on their network was not a smooth process. But in the end we got them to work.
Once I finally get all our accounts merged together and setup the autopay, my cost will be $55 / month for me, then of course $55 / month for my wife and and son too. So $165/month before taxes and fees. The $55/month is based on a family of 3. If we had 4 people or 4 lines of service, the price would drop to $45/month per person.
That gives me Unlimited Voice, Text, and Data. However I only get 15GB of HotSpot Data. I will be intererested to see how they track that with unlocked phones coming from Google's Network. Also the data is not really unlimited. I read online that you only get 50GB of data(4G/5G) / month, after which speed may be throttled. But in all honestly that is plenty for me and most people. Keep in mind that is also the data per line, so each line will get 50GB of data.
As for the experience. The people at verizon were very professional. These is for the Lincoln Stores on O St, and N 27th St. Am I paying more that I did with FI YES! But I am at a point in life where quality of communications, and having a reliable network means more to me, than saving $80 / month for the family. I asked the verizon rep about the issues I have been having, and he said they have noticed a huge increase in buisness especially at their O St location. Most of it is Sprint and Tmobile customers switching to Verizon. We intially tried to go in Friday evening, but they had a 1 hour wait to see a rep to get switched over. We had to make an appointment for Saturday and come back the next day. I like how they schedule appointments. Makes for a more structured and controlled meeting. As a person who has worked with lots of customer service reps, the type of customers that give you the most problems are the type that want to walk in and play their Karen card demanding to speak to a manager. Making those Karens wait a couple hours, or even better make an appointment, will help to make them feel they are not in the power position, and create a more positive environment for the reps.