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When Project Fi, the wireless 4G network backed by AT&T announced in October 2016 the company would soon begin offering free phone calls to people who signed up for the network, it marked a major milestone for the company and its wireless technology.
It also meant that a project to create an entirely new kind of wireless phone service for the masses had finally become a reality. And as the company has since rolled out the service in the US, it has taken on a name that few of us would have imagined back in January 2016.
While its competitors have been offering their own wireless services for years, none have come close to 4G.
To be more precise, they’ve all either been slower, or didn’t offer their subscribers 4G at all.
And as AT&T prepares to roll out its network later this year, which will be a more mature version of Project Fi, it sees the need to be able to offer free internet and phone calls to its own customers.
At the time of its announcement, there were already calls from customers to create an entirely new cellphone service. So the company had a serious problem – they needed a name, a brand, to sell that service.
And so they decided to go with 4G.
“We were very concerned about 4G and wondered if any other wireless service providers had experimented with this thing where you can call people’s phones for free,” says Tom Jessop, director of corporate communications for AT&T.
“That’s the great thing about [4G], we can roll it out gradually by providing free calls on the first launch, and then offering it over the air over time.”
As Project Fi started rolling out, AT&T also launched a separate wireless service called 4G LTE, which is a “faster, faster wired data network”.
AT&T was a pioneer in the area of internet speeds. Back in 2000 it introduced HSPA, or High-Speed Packet Access, a wireless internet standard that made mobile internet far faster than anything else at the time