Republic Wireless, the wireless service which made headlines for its cut-rate $19 unlimited voice, unlimited text message, and unlimited data plan that relied more on Wi-Fi networks than cellular ones, reopens its beta to a new wave of customers, and has added the Motorola Defy XT to its lineup. If you rarely stray from Wi-Fi network areas and you’re sick of high cell phone bills, you may find this new $19-a-month wireless service a very attractive proposition, believe me!
Republic’s hybrid system connects phones to a Wi-Fi network by default, but if it can’t find a Wi-Fi network, then it will connect to a cellular network. Republic Wireless, which buys and resells space on Sprint Nextel’s network, flies in the face of the increasing restrictions and limitations on data use placed by the bigger carriers, who argue that they are facing a looming capacity crunch. Sprint, however, has maintained its unlimited offering, but at a much higher rate than what Republic is selling its service at.
That means you can have unlimited voice, data, and text messaging while your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network and limited use when connected to its partner Sprint’s cellular network. Basic cellular limits are 550 voice minutes, 150 text messages and 300 megabytes (mb) of data. Those limits can be increased, though, based on your Wi-Fi usage. In other words, the more you use Wi-Fi, the larger your limits will be.
When the service first launched in beta last year, Republic had a fair use policy that laid out guidelines for acceptable use. Customers could use 1,200 minutes, 3,600 texts, or 600MB of data on the cell network each month, though this amount could vary based on the proportion of active users offloaded to WiFi ( the rule of thumb was that at least 60 percent usage should be offloaded). The system also used a moving average to track use, so a month heavy on cellular use could be offset by a month followed by lots of WiFi use.
Some jaded mobile market watchers may see Republic’s emphasis on community as marketing hype being used to mask a highly restrictive wireless service. For heavy users of cellular networks, that might be the case. But Republic never tries to hide what it’s offering and for whom. For many consumers, who want to be part of the smartphone generation, but can’t afford the crushing costs of a data plan, Republic is an outstanding alternative.
How does Republic get away with charging so little? Well, the company has developed a technology called Hybrid Calling that relies heavily on Wi-Fi for primary voice service, with cellular spectrum used as backup.
Republic’s use of Sprint, the third-best network, as its supplementary cell service can sometimes be disappointing, though the reliability and availability will vary depending upon where you live and where you go.
The celebrate the relaunch of its beta program, Republic Wireless is also offering its users the Motorola DEFY XT smartphone that costs $249 and features Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a 3.7-inch display, a 1GHz processor and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. While the price tag may seem high for a comparatively low-end Android phone, keep in mind that it doesn’t require a two-year contract and money saved with the $19 monthly use charges will more than make up for the initial device investment.