1. Originalloverman's Avatar
    GOOGLES Project Fi, offers a long list of modern day perks. It automatically moves phones between traditional cellular networks and the WiFi wireless networks inside homes and businesses. Once on WiFi, you can still make calls and send texts. And you can pay for all this in small, flat, monthly feesavoiding the sort of inflated, strings-attached pricing that so often accompanies our cell services.

    But the most interesting perk is that the service uses two different wireless carriersT-Mobile and Sprintand you dont have to pick between them. As you move from place to place, Project Fi will not only move you from cellular to WiFi and back again. It will move you between T-Mobile and Sprint, depending on whose signal is the strongest in your particular location.

    The unique thing is that youre no longer tied to a network. You can go from a Sprint tower to a T-Mobile tower and back to a Sprint tower. Thats groundbreaking. It gives customers so much more freedom, says Robert Schouwenburg, the chief operating officer of mobile hotspot startup Karma, which has negotiated a deal with Sprint similar to Googles.

    At the moment, Googles service is only available on the Nexus 6, the companys flagship Android phone. But it points to a new world where the big wireless carriersSprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and the restare pushed even further into the background of our daily lives. Its a world where we wont really pay attention to what network were on, what brand name it might carry. Well just rely on our phone to move us onto the network that can best serve us at any given moment. And isnt that a world we all want?

    Even before Project Fi, the world of cell service was moving in this direction. Apples new iPad Air 2 tablet includes whats called a virtual SIM card, a piece of software that mimics the hardware cards needed to interact with a wide range of cellular networks. Basically, a virtual SIM means you can test out multiple wireless carriers and choose which you like best. And as time goes on, you can readily drop one carrier for another. More so than any device before it, the iPad Air 2 is independent of any particular carrier.

    BLACKBERRY ahead of the game.

    Movirtus Virtual SIM platform allows separate billing for voice, data and messaging on each number being used on a device. Employees can thus switch between business and personal profiles without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards, allowing for separate charges to be billed to the company and the employee. They can also switch between profiles for calls, data and messages, even when they are on their home network or roaming.

    BlackBerry plans to offer these Virtual SIM capabilities through mobile operators. That being said, companies that have the BlackBerry Enterprise Service platform will be able to apply IT policies to business numbers without impacting the usability of the device for personal use.
    BlackBerry says it will support the deployment of Movirtu technology by mobile operators on all major smartphone operating systems. This means Android and iOS, in addition to BlackBerry OS.

    Now, Google is taking this agnosticism a step further. It automatically drops one carrier for another at any given moment, whenever it can get you a better signal. The Nexus 6 includes whats called a multi-profile SIMa hardware card that can handle multiple carriers. But Google could readily extend its setup with a virtual SIM that accommodates even more networks. Whats more, with its virtual SIM already in place, Apple could mimic Google, offering devices that automatically switch between carrier networks, instead of asking you to choose.

    This kind of setup will only become more prevalent now that carriers have agreedunder the oversight of the FCCto unlock any phone that consumers have paid for in full. As people embrace their freedom to choose, handset makers will make virtual SIMs the norm.

    Yes, automatic network switching wont happen unless the carriers agree to it. But twoT-Mobile and Sprinthave already embraced Googles new mobile world. And as companies like Apple and Google keep expanding the options on their devices, others handset makers will follow and, eventually, so will other carriers.

    Googles Long Game
    With Project Fi, this is exactly what Google is trying to accomplish. Judging from the cost of Googles data service, Schouwenburg says, the companys margins are incredibly thin (he should know: he offers a similar data service on a tiny hotspot device that lets you connect laptops and other devices to the internet via Sprint). Google isnt trying to make money on Project Fi. Its trying to show others how this kind of thing can be done.

    And others will indeed follow. In fact, Schouwenburg says, Karma is interested in adopting a model similar to Googles Project Fi. Today, Karmas wireless hotspot only works on the Sprint network, but ideally, he says, the company wants the device to automatically move between carrier networks, depending on whos offering the best signal.

    Which really is just stating the obvious. Of course Karma wants this kind of thing, as does everyone who uses a mobile device. More network options mean better service at any given location. That makes every phone and tablet easier to use. Some carriers may stand in the way of this new world-thats the pain point, Schouwenburg saysbut not for long.
    04-24-2015 07:21 AM

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