To our surprise, Google Fi is rolling out a new “virtual carrier network” or “VCN” for Pixel users. It’s basically a VPN for your cellular connection—it hides your IP address, web traffic, and physical location from everyone, including Google and its MVNO partners.
The Google Fi VCN is automatically enabled for customers using a modern Pixel smartphone (specifically the Pixel 4 and all later models). Because this feature leverages the Android VcnManager, it requires Android 12 or later, which is probably why it doesn’t work on older Pixel phones.
A white paper detailing the Google FI VCN states that it won’t interfere with private DNS settings, VPNs, HTTP proxies, or other personal security tools. And unlike a mobile VPN app, the Google Fi VCN protects any devices that are tethered to your phone.
At the time of writing, Google Fi is the only carrier to build a comprehensive VCN using the Android VcnManager. Other carriers are encouraged to do the same, though we don’t really expect them to follow suit.
Note that Google may disable its VCN if it interferes with network activity. This is an experimental launch, so the company will prioritize network speed and reliability. I should also clarify that this VCN won’t protect your privacy on a Wi-Fi connection—for that, you need a VPN.
Google Fi offers incredibly competitive mobile plans, with unlimited plans starting at just $20 a month per user.