Back in 2020, Google’s in-house incubator—Area 120—launched an experimental Wi-Fi platform called Orion Wi-Fi that gave locales a way to sell Wi-Fi capacity to carriers. Now the company is expanding Google Fi coverage using that tech, and calling it the “W+ network.”
Last year, Google ran a trial of OpenRoaming, which allowed subscribers to connect to Google Fi Wi-Fi hotspots for extended coverage outside their home networks. Orion Wi-Fi operates with a similar concept and allows public venues to offer Wi-Fi to customers for free, and make a little money by opening up their existing network (and without having to purchase or set up any additional hardware or software. And, most notably, OpenRoaming usage did not count against your data cap during that trial.
Now, Google has exited that trial phase and is now calling the feature the W+ network, and using it will count against your monthly data cap. Additionally, the ability to access and use the expanded Wi-Fi network is a feature only open to Google’s devices running Android 12 (think: the company’s newer Pixel smartphones).
Pixel owners with a Google Fi plan can now see available Fi W+ networks, which will appear as the cellular indicator, “W+,” in their device’s status bar. Any compatible devices will automatically connect to the new network whenever it’s in range, like at airports, stadiums, and shopping centers (with Google promising that coverage “will expand over time”).
However, that feature has one caveat: Google states that W+ “never automatically connects when one of your saved Wi-Fi networks, like your home network, is nearby and available.” And again, any data you use via that connection will automatically count against your Google Fi monthly data cap; if you’re on the service’s Flexible plan, you will be charged for standard use.
Users can also disconnect from W+, either turning it off temporarily or permanently opting out of the feature. To temporarily disconnect, simply turn off Wi-Fi on your device or manually connect to a different network. To turn off automatic W+ connection, open your device’s Settings menu, select “Network & Internet,” then “SIM,” then “Google Fi,” then “W+ Connections.” Likewise, you can enable that feature again by following the same steps.
Source: Google via Android Authority