Over the past few weeks, Google has been testing Voice over LTE, or VoLTE connections for some of its Project Fi subscribers, the company just announced.
This means that select Project Fi customers were able to make VoLTE phone calls using 4G LTE, which allows for higher call quality as well as faster and more reliable data connections for apps and services that need cellular connectivity.
Google just mentions that it's been testing VoLTE support with a "subset" of its Project Fi subscribers, but doesn't go into additional details as to how widespread this trial was.
As Google points out, VoLTE comes with a number of perks that make it a desirable solution. Users can make higher quality calls over data, for instance, without dipping into their data allocation. At the same time, VoLTE also allows for faster data browsing while in a call, as well as a faster call setup. While not mentioned, VoLTE support should also translate into fewer dropped calls overall.
"You can tell you're making a VoLTE call because your signal indicator will continue to display LTE instead of falling to H [HSPA] when you make or receive a call," Google community manager Alena explains in a forum post.
Project Fi VoLTE Drawbacks
For those unfamiliar with the concept, Project Fi is a mobile virtual network operator that works on top of existing networks such as T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. On the downside, only T-Mobile supports VoLTE for now, while Sprint and U.S. Cellular do not.
This means that Project Fi customers will be able to take advantage of the new VoLTE functionality only if they're among the ones Google selected for the testing, and only if they're using T-Mobile's network. Verizon and AT&T already offer VoLTE, so this would be a big boon for T-Mobile.
Project Fi was unveiled back in 2015 and raised plenty of interest, albeit it also comes with limitations in terms of supported devices. For now, Project Fi only works with a few devices from Google's roster, such as the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and the latest Google Pixel and Pixel XL.
Project Fi Prices
The Project Fi service is available at $20 per month, which brings along unlimited text and talk domestically and unlimited text internationally. Users can also add data to their plan, but they'll have to shell out an extra $10 for each GB per month.
A plan with 5 GB of data, for instance, would go up to $70 per month ($20 for the basic plan and $50 worth of data). On the bright side, customers who bought 5 GB of data but only used part of it will receive bill credit for the unused data. So if a customer used up only 3 GB out of those 5 GB, they'll get a $20 bill credit for the 2 GB unused.
Adding VoLTE into the mix marks a significant step forward for Project Fi, especially as carriers are gradually moving away from traditional voice networks and relying more on supporting calls over data networks.