A couple of days ago I read about Republic Wireless, a company which is a division of Bandwith.com that was planning to offer customers an unlimited talk, text and web plan for $19 a month without a contract, roaming or early termination fees. My first reaction to the news, What’s the catch?
According to Republic Wireless, the catch is you! Let me explain, The Republic Wireless service relies heavily on WiFi as the backbone of its phone service. Republics research shows that most people are around WiFi networks 60% of the time and the trend is growing.
Whenever possible the Android based LG Optimus phone uses WiFi to send and receive calls, surf the web or send text messages. The phone uses technology called Voice over IP (VOIP) to route calls over the internet instead of the cellular network. Similar technology is being employed by home phone service providers Vonage and Xfinity to route calls over the internet, except the Republic Wireless service is mobile.
But what if there isn’t any WiFi around, well Republic has an answer for that too. When WiFi isn’t available the Republic Smartphone just switches itself over to a cellular network. At launch Republics cellular partner is Sprint. So calls and data will be routed through Sprints Cellular network when Wifi isn’t available.
Republic is calling its unique service, ‘Hybrid Calling’, “Hybrid Calling is just like a hybrid car, only traditional carriers are the oil companies”. Luckily the phone which automatically prioritizes WiFi networks handles the switching between WiFi and cellular without any user interaction. Of course like any other device, you’ll need to enter the network password for any encrypted WiFi networks you wish to use.
However, there is a caveat when using the cellular network, Republic Wireless will be tracking your cellular usage to calculate a Cellular Usage Index (CUI). The CUI will determine your cellular footprint, you can consume up to 550 minutes of voice, send 150 texts and download 300 megabyte of data on the cellular network and stay within the Republic Wireless community’s fair use guidelines. There are no limits imposed while on a WiFi network.
The phone employs audio and visual cues to alert users when they’re using WiFi or Cellular. The phone displays a green arc in the upper left notification area when using WiFi, the arc changes to grey when using the cellular network. When on a call users will also hear an alert tone when the phone switches between networks.
The key to making this service work is to maximize everyones use of WiFi networks. So what happens if you use more cellular data then the suggested guidelines? According to it’s terms of service first, you’ll be reminded of the guidelines. Then they will provide tips for reducing your cellular footprint.
If over a period of time you find you can not live within the Republic guidelines they will help you transition to a traditional carrier that can better serve your needs.
How well does the Republic Wireless service work? That’s really the ‘Elephant in the room’, and I don’t have an answer yet. The service just launched last night, and it’s website collapsed under the weight of initial orders. When I was finally able to get through and place an order, the delivery of the handsets went from delivery in a week to maybe in 30 days? Look for a full review in a future story.
If you can’t wait for the review, the Republic Wireless service is launching with one handset the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) based LG Optimus, the phone is included in the $199 start-up fee which also includes your first months phone service. State and local taxes vary by location so you will need to add taxes to the $19 per month service fee. International calling is presently not included in the plan but is a feature Republic is considering adding.
Republic Wireless has a special half-price $99 promotion for early adopters for a limited time. You have to join before November 27 at RepublicWireless.com /join and use the code welcome19, that will get you the phone and first months service at the discounted price. Republic Wireless offers a 30 day money back guarantee.
Source: Republic Wireless