Google is offering a wireless phone service designed to pressure major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless into lowering their prices.

Google’s pricing setup makes Project Fi less expensive than most of the comparable plans offering by the four biggest wireless phone carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. The monthly prices for a single line of smartphone service with up to one gigabyte of cellular data at those carriers range from $45 to $50 compared to $30 from Google, before subtracting any potential credits for unused data.

The major carriers, though, offer a variety of family plans that could still be better deals than Project Fi. Those bundled plans allow several phone lines to share a pool of cellular data.

“In today’s mobile world, fast and reliable connectivity is almost second nature. But even in places like the U.S., where mobile connections are nearly ubiquitous, there are still times when you turn to your phone for that split-second answer and don’t have fast enough speed. Or you can’t get calls and texts because you left your phone in a taxi (or it got lost in a couch cushion for the day). As mobile devices continually improve how you connect to people and information, it’s important that wireless connectivity and communication keep pace and be fast everywhere, easy to use, and accessible to everyone,” Google declared in its announcement. (Watch a video at:

“That’s why today we’re introducing Project Fi, a program to explore this opportunity by introducing new ideas through a fast and easy wireless experience. Similar to our Nexus hardware program, Project Fi enables us to work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what’s possible. By designing across hardware, software and connectivity, we can more fully explore new ways for people to connect and communicate. Two of the top mobile networks in the U.S.—Sprint and T-Mobile—are partnering with us to launch Project Fi and now you can be part of the project too.”

Like Raleigh-based Republic Wireless, Google’s service is a blend of cellular and Wi-Fi technology.

The service will cost $20 per month and only charge customers for the amount of cellular data that they use each month instead of a flat rate. Each gigabyte of data will cost $10 per month. That means a customer could sign up for a plan offering three gigabytes of data and get $20 back if only one gigabyte was used in a month.

Most wireless phone carriers allow their customers to roll over unused data into another month of service without refunding any money.

Google’s service initially will be available only on the Nexus 6, a Motorola phone made with Google’s help.

Motorola is a subsidiary of Lenovo, which operates its executive headquarters in Morrisville. Motorola is based in Chicago.

Network options

Besides trying to bring down the prices of wireless phone plans, Google is promising subscribers that their Nexus 6 model will automatically connect with the fastest network available.

Rather than building its own network, Google is leasing space on cellular towers built by Sprint and T-Mobile, which are hoping the deals will boost their profits without costing them too many customers tempted to defect to Project Fi. Google is promising Project Fi will automatically switch over to an available Wi-Fi network if that is running at a higher speed than the cellular alternatives.

“As mobile devices continually improve how you connect to people and information, it’s important that wireless connectivity and communication keep pace and be fast everywhere, easy to use, and accessible to everyone,” Nick Fox, the Google executive overseeing Project Fi, wrote in Wednesday blog post.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere, whose company already has been cutting its prices and rolling out new options, said it was a “no-brainer” to work with Google on Project Fi.

“Anything that shakes up the industry status quo is a good thing — for both US wirelesscustomers and T-Mobile,” Legere wrote in a blog post.

Google has an incentive to promote cheaper and faster wireless service because it operates some of the world’s most popular online services, including its search engine, maps, Gmail and YouTube video site. The Mountain View, California, company believes most people will visit those services more frequently if they are enticed to stay online for longer periods, giving Google more opportunities to show the digital ads that generate most of its revenue.

Similar motives prompted Google to begin building high-speed, hard-wired networks capable of navigating the Internet at speeds up to 100 times faster than existing broadband services. Although Google is only selling its broadband service in a handful of U.S. cities so far, AT&T and Comcast are now offering options with comparable speeds in a few communities.

Google’s priorities

In a blog post, Google spelled out its priorities:

  • Helping you get the highest-quality connection

Project Fi aims to put you on the best network wherever you go. As you move around, the best network for you might be a Wi-Fi hotspot or a specific 4G LTE network. We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it’s Wi-Fi or one of our two partner LTE networks. As you go about your day, Project Fi automatically connects you to more than a million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots we’ve verified as fast and reliable. Once you’re connected, we help secure your data through encryption. When you’re not on Wi-Fi, we move you between whichever of our partner networks is delivering the fastest speed, so you get 4G LTE in more places. Learn more about our network of networks.

  • Enabling easy communication across networks and devices

Project Fi works to get technology out of the way so you can communicate through whichever network type and device you’re using. Wherever you’re connected to Wi-Fi—whether that’s at home, your favorite coffee shop or your Batcave—you can talk and text like you normally do. If you leave an area of Wi-Fi coverage, your call will seamlessly transition from Wi-Fi to cell networks so your conversation doesn’t skip a beat. We also want to help phone numbers adapt to a multi-screen world. With Project Fi, your phone number lives in the cloud, so you can talk and text with your number on just about any phone, tablet or laptop. So the next time you misplace your phone, you can stay connected using another screen. Check out how it works.

  • Making the service experience as simple as possible

Project Fi takes a fresh approach to how you pay for wireless, manage your service, and get in touch when you need help. We offer one simple plan at one price with 24/7 support. Here’s how it works: for $20 a month you get all the basics (talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in 120+ countries), and then it’s a flat $10 per GB for cellular data while in the U.S. and abroad. 1GB is $10/month, 2GB is $20/month, 3GB is $30/month, and so on. Since it’s hard to predict your data usage, you’ll get credit for the full value of your unused data. Let’s say you go with 3GB for $30 and only use 1.4GB one month. You’ll get $16 back, so you only pay for what you use.Get all the details about our plan.