Affordable international cell service

By Harlan Sager
This item appears on page 14 of the October 2018 issue.

My wife, Karen, and I have often read about getting cell phones or SIM cards for overseas travel, but, as my wife and I have found, there is no need to do that due to affordable and universally useable cell service from Google's Project Fi (*

My personal experience with both T-Mobile and Verizon while traveling internationally was receiving bills amounting to several hundred dollars for only a few phone calls and less than a gigabyte of data usage. That's what prompted me, in July 2016, to ditch the normal US carriers and go with Project Fi.

Yes, I had to abandon my Samsung phone and buy a new Nexus 6 for myself, then, using an Android-to-Android feature, transfer my contacts/phone numbers and apps to my new phone.

I did not port my old phone number to my new phone because, at first, I kept my old phone. I wasn't sure that Project Fi was going to work as claimed, but when it did, I canceled my other cellular service.

But my bill for just US service dropped from $120 per month with Verizon to $55 with Project Fi for two phones, and I had 20 GIGAbytes of data (I do not often use that much). Previously, it had cost me an additional $25 per month for only 250 MEGAbytes of data from Verizon when traveling overseas or in Canada.

I use Project Fi for everything a modern cell phone can do — video chats with granddaughters from overseas, etc. Google Maps works worldwide. I have never had a problem with connectivity, and I love the low-cost, one-phone-fits-all-needs worldwide service.

I've used this service for two years. In 2016, when we did the Camino de Santiago de Compostela walk from Lisbon, Portugal, to Santiago, Spain, as well as on Cape Finisterre, Spain, I used the phone exclusively for all my photos. I wrote our blog on and uploaded photos to it each day.

In March 2017, I bought Karen a Pixel 2 so she could use Project Fi too, only she kept her old number for her new phone.

FI costs $20 per month for one phone plus $15 per month for a second phone on my account. We also pay $10 per month per gigabyte of data used (you can connect to Wi-Fi and use very little data), and each month, we get a refund for any data we did not use.

Lastly, if you need assistance, 24-hour service — with real-time chat — will help you, including every step of the way when you transition to Project Fi.


Henderson, NV

*There are three types of high-capacity cellular networks in use today. In the US, the major carriers — AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile — each uses a different type of network, for the most part.

A phone using a Project Fi SIM card can connect to any of the three major networks, prioritizing whichever network has the strongest signal, so it can be used practically anywhere there is a cellular network. However, as of press time, only Google-branded phones, such as the Nexus and Pixel phones mentioned by Mr. Sager, will accept a Project Fi SIM card.

Project Fi is a prepaid service, rather than a pay-as-you-use service like many carriers. Because there is no roaming with Project Fi, the cost of phone minutes and data does not change based on where you are.

(For the record, of the US cell phone carriers, T-Mobile primarily uses Global System for Mobile communications [GSM], which is also the most widely used network in the world, which means that T-Mobile phones work in most countries. Just as for Project Fi users, T-Mobile users do get free data [albeit at lower speeds] and free texting in more than 140 countries, but, unlike FI users, they do not get free voice overseas. Additionally, in most cases, a T-Mobile monthly phone plan is more expensive than using Project Fi.)