Most mobile phone networks run on traditional radio wave technology. But one emerging carrier plans to run on freedom. At least that’s what the carrier, Republic Wireless, is calling its mobile phone service plan. Republic Wireless is offering a plan that covers voice, text, and data for $19 a month. The plan offers unlimited talk, text, and Internet with no annual contract.
In a time where average mobile phone plans by T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon are roughly four times the price of Republic’s, it seems just too good to be true. Rest assured, it’s not. Republic is truly offering an unlimited plan for $19. Whether or not there’s a catch to all of this depends on how you feel about the technology that the carrier is employing to make this possible.
To bring down the costs of operation to a point that allows the company to offer a $19 unlimited, monthly, no-contract plan, Republic Wireless utilizes “Hybrid-Calling” technology that works by automatically switching to Wi-Fi to make calls, text, and surf the web whenever a wireless connection is available. When Wi-Fi is not accessible, Republic’s system automatically switches to traditional cellular service, and so on. When Republic users aren’t connected to a Wi-Fi network service, their phones switch to Sprint’s cellular service.
Because the carrier is just emerging, its services are still limited. The company refers to customers as members, which gives it a nice egalitarian feeling that the big four (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) lack. Republic is slowly admitting new “members” to its ranks, but right now, available spots are limited. Interested users can subscribe to an announcement service on the carrier’s website that informs them when more spots become available.
To start using the service, users are required to enable at least one Wi-Fi network on their devices. This is where the nuances of the “unlimited” plan emerge. Republic users will have unlimited everything whenever they’re tapped into the Wi-Fi end of the hybrid service. According to the carrier’s website, even if users have 0% Wi-Fi usage, relying only on the cellular usage, they’re allowed approximately 550 minutes and 150 texts.
For some critics, this seems like a pretty serious catch, but Republic maintains that the plan is in fact unlimited for several reasons. The first is that given most people’s access to Wi-Fi, there won’t be that big of a need to switch to cellular. The second is that there are no actual overage fees. If members use too much cellular service, they receive several warnings. Eventually, users who do not comply with what Republic calls the “community fair use” threshold, get the boot.
If you’re ok with these guidelines, then it’s a pretty sweet deal. If you don’t think you’re around accessible Wi-Fi enough, then maybe Republic isn’t your best choice.
For now, Republic is only offering one, low-end Android phone, the LG Optimus with Android 2.3 “Gingerbread.” The initial cost is to join and get the phone is $199, though a special ongoing promo currently gets you the phone for $99.
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