Innovative New Tech Means Carriers Lose Their Grip on Consumers


techBetween the unreliability of using a single carrier and the fact that the, mostly, are overpriced tech and constantly hitting consumers up with higher and higher bills with lower and lower limits on data use, finding a good cell phone plan feels like a lost cause. Or, it did, anyway. It looks like things are starting to change.

Some carriers already see which way the wind is blowing—T-Mobile, and its pre-paid service, Metro PCS, are both working to counter bigger carriers with more reasonable deals. But even if you don’t have a contract, switching can be a huge hassle. There’s the chance your phone won’t work on a different carrier, for one thing. For another, you’ll have to deal with having your number ported and picking up a new SIM.

Google’s Project Fi, however, seems to be offering a totally different experience. At this point, it’s still in beta, and invite only, but reviews are already positive. Instead of having its own carrier towers, it piggybacks on Sprint and T-Mobile towers. Furthermore, it utilizes Wi-Fi whenever possible—automatically making the switch to open networks, and even handling calls over Wi-Fi. Customers pay a monthly rate, and Google takes care of paying Sprint and T-Mobile for the use of their towers. There are no contracts, there’s no roaming.

The technology that makes this possible is a SIM card unlike any other. This is also what cell phone spy free works off of when it picks up the information you want. This novel new technology was developed by Gieseke & Devrient (G&D), a German company. Previously, SIM cards were directly associated with a single carrier, and were used to authenticate phones on that carrier’s tower. G&D’s version, however, can be used with multiple carriers. In fact, they can even handle both GSM and CDMA carriers, something that hadn’t been previously attempted.

There are still some hiccups, however, as this is a complicated process and it’s only recently been introduced to the wild, as it were. The biggest issue, however, is that right now Project Fi is only available to customers that are using on of Google’s own brand of cell phones. It’s not that only Android phones can use Project Fi, it’s that only Nexus phones can. That will obviously have to change if Google wants to make real inroads into the carrier market.

But whether or not Project Fi is a successful business venture is almost beside the point for the consumer. Its very existence means that other players in the market have acknowledged just how much the major carriers have been taking advantage of their customers, and they’re working to find ways to provide consumers with a better (and cheaper) experience. Apple has also been working on a SIM that would authenticate on multiple carriers, although their version would only work with one carrier at a time.

We’ve already seen AT&T and Verizon react to T-Mobile’s boundary pushing, discarding contracts and separating monthly charges from phone financing. The only thing that’s missing now are phones that are more compatible with different carrier bands and technology.