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Old 05-01-2016, 02:36   #1
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Google Fi for Sailors

I'm wondering if this is a good deal for travelers and sailors. Google is starting its own cell service. They have partnered with service providers in over 120 countries. You pay $20 per month for unlimited talk/text in the US and also unlimited international texts. You pay for the data you use at $10 per gigabyte. Any data you don't use will be refunded, say you use .5 gigs when you paid for 1. You get $5 back. This price for data is good at the 120 countries. You can also tether your cell to your laptop at no additional charge. You will need to pay extra to make calls outside the US but its cheaper over wifi (voip).

This program is in the beta stage and you can get invited through this website.

https://fi.google.com/about

The ease of use is great. No need to get a sim card or phone for each country you visit.
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Old 05-01-2016, 04:14   #2
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

Thanks for the heads up. Google Fi could be a game changer for cruisers.

We are still land based at the moment but already use 4G and mifi for our home broadband connection and it works extremely well with two laptops and a tablet tethered to it most of the time. We take the mifi device with us when we travel in the UK - it works great, but data costs abroad are too painful to mention.

Google Fi sounds like just the ticket for convenient connectivity anywhere, except for the fact that what we pay for 4G mifi per month for a 15GB allowance would only get us 3GB of data on Google Fi. We typically use about 12 - 15GB of data per month, so 3GB would fall way short, but maybe we wouldn't spend so much time surfing the internet when cruising

Maybe the data costs will fall over time once the service becomes more mainstream. That usually seems to be the way things work.
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Old 05-01-2016, 04:44   #3
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

It's not a perfect system by far but you can get real time weather updates, update charts, etc while offshore in 120 countries. More and more sailors are using their phones and tablets instead of traditional marine systems and chartplotters. Like Bill4 said prices may even come down. The prices are very attractive compared to most US cell phone users $80 vs $30 per person per month and you are getting near global coverage.
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Old 05-01-2016, 05:26   #4
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

Quote:
Originally Posted by LLCoolDave View Post
It's not a perfect system by far but you can get real time weather updates, update charts, etc while offshore in 120 countries. More and more sailors are using their phones and tablets instead of traditional marine systems and chartplotters. Like Bill4 said prices may even come down. The prices are very attractive compared to most US cell phone users $80 vs $30 per person per month and you are getting near global coverage.
$80 (54) per month?

In the UK I pay 11 ($16) per month for 500minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB 4G data for my mobile phone.

For the MIFI I pay 20 ($30) per month for 15GB of 4G data.

Maybe things aren't so bad in the UK after all. Still, us Brits like to moan about Rip-off Britain. Oh, and the weather - we like to moan about that too. Have I mentioned the floods?

Back on topic, from the figures you quote Google Fi is an attractive option for US citizens, and less so for us Brits on cost, but still great for convenience - not having to hunt around for the best SIM card deal when arriving in a new country - what price do you put on that?
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Old 05-01-2016, 05:33   #5
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

I would sign up for Google Fi today, but you need to have one of three phones: the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, or Nexus 6P.

Oh well. . . . Not ready to buy one of those just yet. I hope Google opens it up to all LTE devices eventually.
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Old 05-01-2016, 05:51   #6
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

Its not dirt cheap.
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Old 05-01-2016, 05:56   #7
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

Quote:
Originally Posted by LLCoolDave View Post
It's not a perfect system by far but you can get real time weather updates, update charts, etc while offshore in 120 countries. More and more sailors are using their phones and tablets instead of traditional marine systems and chartplotters. Like Bill4 said prices may even come down. The prices are very attractive compared to most US cell phone users $80 vs $30 per person per month and you are getting near global coverage.
Once they build a bunch of floating cell towers.

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Old 05-01-2016, 09:14   #8
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

I have to agree with goat. We have to be careful how we use the descriptors "off-shore" and "near global coverage" when describing any cell service. Use of SSB or satellite telephone fit these two descriptors, while cell service is significantly more limited, depending on cell tower location, topographical obstructions and sheer line of sight distance. IMHO, for a safety consideration, I wouldn't count on non-boosted cell reception of much more than 30nm off-shore. You may have reception distances that are somewhat greater, but you may also find limited to no reception at much closer distances.
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Old 05-01-2016, 09:20   #9
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

Two issues:
1. As previously noted, you have to buy the Google Nexus 5X or 6P phone. They are very good phones and if you need a new phone anyway, great. Price range is $379 to $649. (I don't think they are waterproof. Very few are.)
2. Coverage.
a. They talk about always using the best 4G LTE network available. Does that mean they only use 4G LTE? Their coverage maps also show 2G and 3G, but I don't see anything that says they really will connect to the slower networks. Maybe they do, I could not find it.
b. Looking at coverage maps, they are quite good in the US, Puerto Rico, USVI and OK in Mexico. But no place else in the world, according to the maps. The text says they cover 120 countries - why does the map not show this?
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Old 05-01-2016, 09:38   #10
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

One day someone will create a very wide (global) net that uses sailboats as mini towers. All would be interconnected and able to pass off communications seamlessly. Every sailboat becomes a node in a distributed network. The more sailboat mini tower/hot spot type set ups out there the bigger the wide area network. A bit like crowd sourcing a distributed network.

The great thing about the human mind is its ability to get around obstacles others put in your way in order for them to make money from you.

If the toll fee to use the bridge over the river that connects your village with the outside world is extortionate then the villagers will go ahead and build a new and better bridge. That is if they have any sense.
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Old 05-01-2016, 09:56   #11
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

My Google Fi SIM is arriving tomorrow (I got a Nexus 5x over Christmas). I agree it could make a lot of sense for travelers of any sort, depending on where you are and where you're going.

As with any cellular service, checking coverage for your area matters. Fi is using Sprint + T-Mobile in the US. For me in the PNW it could work out really well because AT&T had basically no coverage in BC, while Fi should have some (2G). Fi is cheaper than StraightTalk (a MVNO - mobile virtual network operator) which I was using previously at $45/month+tax ($52).

I use my data a lot and still have never hit 2 GB in a month. But I have WiFi at home, which is where I do most high bandwidth things like Youtube videos. Fi's price points are best for those who use less than 4 GB.

Also worth noting Google Fi data usage isn't directly comparable to normal cellular providers, because they're doing some software mods to route more of your data to WiFi in order to help reduce your cellular data usage. So people saying they use 12-15 GB now might not use that much on Fi. They do automatic scanning for open wifi networks and if it's actually open (not paywalled), they use a secure VPN for the data pipe. I'm anxious to see how seamless that is because that will probably determine whether I stick with Fi.
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Old 05-01-2016, 10:06   #12
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

Interesting idea. The problem is most sailboats are in marinas. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean there may be huge gaps with one boat hundreds of miles from the next one. I could see it being feasible in busy coastal cruising areas.

A neat idea for ocean trade winds routes actually would be Project Loon (https://www.google.com/loon/). The balloons are already passing over the oceans in the upper atmosphere thermals, and can project wifi to a much larger area. Unfortunately I doubt the economics of it would make sense for the small numbers of boats in the ocean, but who knows - it's still very early days for that technology.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Going Walkabout View Post
One day someone will create a very wide (global) net that uses sailboats as mini towers. All would be interconnected and able to pass off communications seamlessly. Every sailboat becomes a node in a distributed network. The more sailboat mini tower/hot spot type set ups out there the bigger the wide area network. A bit like crowd sourcing a distributed network.

The great thing about the human mind is its ability to get around obstacles others put in your way in order for them to make money from you.

If the toll fee to use the bridge over the river that connects your village with the outside world is extortionate then the villagers will go ahead and build a new and better bridge. That is if they have any sense.
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Old 05-01-2016, 10:07   #13
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

Compared to our current plan, Google Fi looks like it would cost us more.

However, the real question is how good is their cell coverage? Cost is not important if they don't have the coverage you need.

We just went through the THREE cell companies in Nov/Dec.

We have had company X for years. Service was excellent, calls worked for most but not all places we needed but we could use a bit more data. Company Y had a plan that would provide more data for less money and their coverage maps said we would be, well, covered. Well we were not covered. Dropped calls in many places, no coverage at all in other places, and not a good signal at home. The wife spend a good couple of days switching from company X to Y all for nothing.

So we went to company Z who has better coverage, about double the data as X and we got new $600-650 cell phones for $50/100 without a contract for a bit more money per month than company X.

Twas a bunch of work my wife had to do but in the end it worked out. But if the network does not cover the places you need access, the plan is a waste of money.

Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to know, is to try.

Later,
Dan
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Old 05-01-2016, 10:58   #14
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

It is a Google Experiment and that's why it requires "special" phones which are not generally available. The Fi system places all of your calls over any local WiFi service that can be found, and the magically it will seamlessly shift the connection to either a Sprint or TMobile cellular system if it runs out of WiFi. (And it might very well do that on LTE.)


The things is, other companies have tried this and are trying this, although AFAIK only with one cellular carrier. And experiencing mixed results because the switching is not always seamless. Heck, Sprint used to drop their own calls when they had a customer moving from an analog to a digital coverage area.


Adding international no-roaming-fees to the mix is a nice perq, but Google has been known to orphan a lot of things, and the availability of any support, in any way, varies greatly from product to product.


If the numbers work for you, and IF you can test the "switching" and that works well enough for you...the Nexus phones aren't all bad. They're among the brain-dead phones that can't use SD cards and can't have batteries changed, but that hasn't stopped Apple from selling a lot of iPhones either.(G)


I'd expect some system software updates will address the seamless switching if that turns out to be problematic. The one good thing about Google Phones is that they always get the fastest system software updates.
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Old 05-01-2016, 13:16   #15
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Re: Google Fi for Sailors

I like this picture!! Vessels as nodes in a net - GREAT!!
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