[USA] New carrier offers $19/month unlimited voice, text, and data

Think you are paying too much for cellular service? Then Republic Wireless may be what you have been waiting for. On November 8, Republic Wireless, a new cell phone service provider in the USA owned by Bandwidth.com, will start offering unlimited voice, text, and data for $19 per month. Too good to be true, right? Wrong. It is real — but there are strings attached.

Republic Wireless is able to offer such low prices by a) purchasing minutes in bulk from Sprint and b) off-loading voice, text, and data onto WiFi networks when available. What does this mean? Well first and foremost, Republic Wireless will run on Sprint’s network and will utilize Sprint 3G. More importantly, however, it means people who go with Republic Wireless will need to purchase special handsets that support CDMA (to run on Sprint’s network) and UMA, also known as WiFi calling, to be able to off load onto WiFi networks. These handsets are said to be Android devices and presumably will be available directly from Republic Wireless. No word on exactly which ones will be offered or pricing.

The cool thing about Republic Wireless – aside from the price – is the fact that it claims to offer unlimited voice, text, and data; and since it runs on Sprint’s network [3G -- not 4G], you will (supposedly) get coverage wherever Sprint gets coverage — or anywhere there is a WiFi network, thanks to UMA. Of course, we all know “unlimited data” is a crafty marketing term for carriers nowadays, so it is hard to say if Republic Wireless will truly offer unlimited or have soft caps. Nonetheless the prospect of getting unlimited voice, text, and data with nationwide coverage for $19 a month is attractive. Do note, however, there is no mention if this pricing will be contract-free or on-contract.

Aside from the above-mentioned, details about Republic Wireless’ offerings are sketchy. Hopefully we will find out more when November 8 comes around. One thing is for certain, however: If Republic Wireless is able to pull this off successfully (i.e. with a high service level), then it may have a lasting impact on how carriers do business in the United States.

Republic Wireless homepage

[via GigaOM]

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10 comments

  1. Tim

    @Mike B:

    I’m a Tracfone user, too. The cheapest way to continue service on Tracfone, if you use very few minutes (or have built up a bank of minutes over the years that you aren’t drawing down on) is to go online to the Tracfone site, and purchase a 60 minute “card”. It will then give you the chance to “supersize” your order, with a choice of additional minutes or time. For $50, you can get an additional year of service time, so for a total of $70, you get 15 months service – only $4.67/month.

    And if you go to http://www.preprepaid.com/currenttracfonebonus.php you can find a promo code that will give you at least 20 minutes bonus, up to 60 minutes in some cases.

  2. Emrys

    Before I pay to end my contract, I’m taking a long, jaded look at this with a jaundiced eye. It seems too good to be true. I can’t get a land line that cheap. Be wary…I may try it without leaving Sprint first.

  3. Mike B

    If I could get a signal where I live, and if I could return the phone for a full refund if I decide not to use the service, I might consider giving it a try. But since I have no cell signal at home, and I doubt very much they’ll give you a full refund after you’ve used the phone, not to mention that the phone is probably quite pricey, I’ll pass.

    I use TracFone because there are no monthly charges, and it works out to be the least expensive cell service if you don’t need to make a lot of calls. The only complaint I’ve got with TracFone is that I have to buy minutes to get airtime, even if I don’t use all the minutes. I buy airtime once a year for $99 and never end up using all the minutes, so I’m slowly building up a lot of unused minutes that I paid for but will probably never use.

  4. Bill Smith

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2395738,00.asp#fbid=JS1ivTrSRLZ

    Quote from Article:
    Which brings us to red light number 1: why would Sprint sell part of its network to a virtual rival at prices that dramatically undercut Sprint’s? Currently there is no technology that lets you roam between Wi-Fi and CDMA; a similar standard called “Unlicensed Mobile Access” (UMA) does allow roaming between GSM and Wi-Fi, but so far only T-Mobile offers this through phones like the BlackBerry Curve 9360.
    Republic told GigaOm that it has built its own “soup-to-nuts solution to offer the hybrid calling functionality.” But we understand Sprint has been working on building this technology as well, so it’s really not clear why the carrier would enable a rival, one that sells itself as an alternative to the Big Four carriers, to do so first.
    Red light number 2: You’ll have to buy a special Android-based hybrid phone from Republic because, as its slides show, “Hybrid calling relies on both hardware and software.” My colleague, lead mobile analyst Sascha Segan, points out that special hardware may be required to do soft handoffs between Wi-Fi and 3G – in other words – being able to maintain a call across two networks without it dropping and reconnecting.
    When someone who commented at both TechCrunch’s and GigaOm’s stories asked why “special hardware” was needed, Brian Dally, senior vice president and general manager for Mobile at Bandwidth.com, responded with a frustrating non-answer: “There are certain aspects of our architecture that I can’t make public, but that if I did, would clarify why special hardware is required. There are good reasons having nothing to do with a desire on our part, or Sprint’s, to enforce control over people and what they can or can’t do with their smartphones. Sprint’s wholesale division is actually an uncommonly good partner. And republic? Hey, we’re on your side in this…stay tuned!”
    Walter Fowler, a media relations manager at Sprint, later confirmed that Bandwidth.com was indeed a wholesale partner of Sprint. “We will be supporting the CDMA portion of their hybrid network.”
    Remember Zer01?
    In 2009, we saw a strikingly similar claim from a company called Zer01, which sold hybrid mobile phones with unlimited voice and data for only $70 a month, without a contract. It also offered $10 a month for each person to whom you sell the same service. But several reporters discovered that Zer01 was actually vaporware and tied to a multi-level marketing company called Global Verge. Oops.

  5. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Tony TwoTone: It may be worth giving a try on the side (to test out its capabilities — people can read as many reviews as they want but actually something is much more informative than reading about it) if this is $19/month with no contract commitment.