Google Fi Virtual Carrier Network (versus VPN)

What is the communities opinion on the following statement from the Google Fi website? I was fascinated about this subtle addition to their features:

“If you use Pixel 4 or up with Android 12 or up, your cellular, hotspot, and W+ data is also automatically encrypted and private through Google Fi’s virtual carrier network (VCN).”

I use a (mostly) anonymous google account on a Google Fi Pixel when traveling abroad (government job). I’ve had great success in Afghanistan, Iraq, KSA, Qatar, etc with Fi. It’s been a very useful tool. Reading through the white paper, I wonder if Fi’s setup is under recognized for its utility, or if the VCN concept is too good to be true.

Link to the white paper here:


It seems very interesting with hints of iCloud Private Relay and glad to see Google taking this step.

The main limitations to be aware of are:

  1. This is for cellular data only, it does not protect WiFi (you will need a separate VPN for that)

  2. It is only for Pixel devices. If using Fi on a non-pixel the VCN will not work (at least for now)

  3. If it is unable to connect, it will ‘fail over’ to standard mobile data connections until it can regain VCN connection thus leaking your data.

    3a: This could be used as a deliberate attack vector by a nation state you are traveling in, they could block IPs associated with the VCN to intentionally force your traffic onto standard mobile data routing that they can exploit. Within the US this is a much smaller risk as it would require the cell carriers to be in on the attack

Overall I really like this concept and seeing the big tech companies roll out stronger security by default (which often enhances privacy too, but not always) is very encouraging even if their motives are purely for commercial gain (consumers want to feel safe) the end result is good.

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