Google Fi will soon stop activating phones that don’t support VoLTE on T-Mobile
Google Fi, launched back in 2015, is an MVNO telecom service by Google, providing calls, SMS, and data services through networks operated by T-Mobile and US Cellular in the USA. If you’re a Google Fi customer with a phone that doesn’t support Voice over LTE (VoLTE) feature, your phone might lose access to cell service in the near future.
Google Fi has begun notifying users (via 9to5Google) that it will no longer activate phones without VoLTE support starting January 2021. The existing phones will continue to receive service in the “near term,” but the company hasn’t yet given a concrete date for the total shutdown of its legacy network. If an existing user factory resets their phone, they will not be able to reactivate their cell service and will have to switch to a new VoLTE supported device.
Google is also offering a $100 bill credit if you buy a new phone directly from Google Fi and activate it before December 31. The offer is applicable only for users with non-VoLTE phones active on Google Fi before December 3 and must have received the offer email.
The change comes as T-Mobile aims to phase out its legacy 3G networks and repurpose the freed spectrum to strengthen its 5G network. We first learned about T-Mobile’s plans to entirely drop 3G back in July through a leaked internal document, which revealed that the “Un-carrier” was planning to mandate all devices to support VoLTE by January 2021. Google Fi, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), has no option but to follow along with this change as it operates on T-Mobile infrastructure.
Phones without VoLTE fallback to 3G or 2G networks when placing a call, and you can notice this in real-time as network indicator change from LTE to HSDPA/UMTS and return to LTE after the call ends. An easy way to check whether your phone can make calls over LTE is to use an app called Network Mode Universal.
Apart from T-Mobile, AT&T is also preparing to shut down its nationwide 3G network, but it plans to do that at a much later date: February 2022.