08
Nov
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Seemingly out of nowhere, a new wireless brand Republic Wireless, a division of Bandwidth.com, announced earlier this month that it would revolutionize and shake up the mobile industry by introducing a Hybrid Calling plan that costs only $19 a month. This plan has indeed gone live today over at RepublicWireless.com, together with the first and only mobile device the company is offering (for now) - the LG Optimus.

The low-cost offering is made possible thanks to heavy reliance on Wi-Fi data - Republic Wireless devices are designed to prioritize Wi-Fi networks, and certain measures have been put in place to make sure you don't hog an unfair share of the mobile network (powered by Sprint).

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I've read through everything RW's site has to offer, and while I have to remain skeptical, or rather suspicious of how well this setup will work, I have to say - if you're looking to cut down that wireless bill, the idea is quite brilliant. In fact, it's almost like getting a Wi-Fi-only device with mobile data and voice capabilities hacked on and prioritized way down.

If you use a lot of voice minutes or large amounts of data, Republic Wireless may not be for you just yet, but I can think of many people who would find this kind of plan ideal (grandparents and less tech-savvy people immediately come to mind).

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Breaking It Down

Let me summarize the most important bits in my favorite bullet-point style - they will hopefully make your decision-making process simpler:

  • The monthly cost to join is indeed $19, though you still have to add tax (let's make it $21). No hidden fees, no administrative charges - just $19 + local taxes.
  • There are no contracts.
  • There are no ETFs (early termination fees).
  • There is only one device at launch - LG Optimus currently running Android 2.3 "Gingerbread."
  • In order to sign up, you have to pay a $199+tax start-up fee, which includes the phone - a rather steep price, which should be offset by the cheap monthly price in only a few months. The first month's fee is also included into the $199+tax, so the monthly bill will not kick in until the 2nd month.
  • New replacement devices are available at $149, and refurbished ones will cost you only $49-$99. Not bad at all for those concerned about having to buy phones at full price in case something happens to them while you're still in contract.
  • You have 30 days to try the service with a full money-back guarantee.
  • You cannot bring outside phones into the network - usage is limited to devices purchased from Republic Wireless.
  • The phones are configured to always prefer Wi-Fi and only switch to 3G, which is backed by Sprint's CDMA network, when absolutely necessary.
  • Here's the kicker - Republic Wireless will keep track of your 7-day usage using what they call your Cellular Usage Index (CUI). You're encouraged to monitor and keep it at a "reasonable range," or else...
  • Republic Wireless says you could consume 550 minutes, send 150 texts, and download 300 megabytes of 3G data per month and still be within a reasonable CUI - not bad at all.
  • So what does happen if you go over? Well, that's not exactly clear - you will be contacted, at first with some helpful tips, and then with a timeline to correct the problem. Presumably, if you don't, you will get kicked out, but Republic Wireless steers clear of saying exactly what happens.
  • Data, minutes, and texts are all unlimited - well, as long as you use Wi-Fi and don't let your CUI get out of control. Not truly unlimited - just kind of.
  • Phone calls over Wi-Fi will transfer to a 3G network if you leave the Wi-Fi area, but you will experience a pause and hear a tone signaling the switch. Not seamless, but at least the call won't be dropped.
  • Making phone calls over Wi-Fi is transparent to you - you just dial. There is no special app - just the dialer.
  • You need a Wi-Fi connection that can sustain 80kbps up and down, which means any broadband should theoretically be enough. Just make sure you don't saturate your network with all that torrenting and YouTubing (yeah, that's now a word).
  • International calling is not available at launch, but it's in the cards sometime in the future.
  • Domestic roaming is included for free. There is no international roaming (good luck finding a CDMA network outside the U.S. anyway - they're quite rare), but you can dial U.S. numbers while abroad by using Wi-Fi.

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The Phone

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  • System: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Dimensions: 4.47" x 2.32" x 0.52"
  • Weight: 4.6 oz.
  • Display: 3.2" LED touch-sensitive screen
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth® 2.0; Wi-Fi® IEEE 802.11 b/g
  • Power: Standard Li-ion Battery (1500 mAh)
  • Talk Time: Up to 5 hours
  • Standby Time: Up to 360 hours
  • Speed: 3G
  • 3.2 Megapixel Camera/Camcorder. Capture high-resolution images and video clips with ease when getting the shot means getting the contract.
  • MicroSD Memory Card Slot: 2GB pre-installed, supports up to a 32GB card
  • Software: Android Market, Google apps (Gmail, Gtalk, Calendar, YouTube, Google Maps/Navigation, Voice Actions, etc), Swype,

$99 Promotion (Half Price)

Use code welcome19, join before November 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm ET, and you'll get the phone and first month of service for half price (see FatWallet for more info).

Hopefully, now you have a better idea of what Republic Wireless is all about - proceed to RepublicWireless.com if you're interested and let us know your thoughts. Is anyone biting the bullet right away?

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

    Hmm, a Cellular Network that approaches service the way Apple approaches products, One-Size-Will-Fit-EVERYBODY. I really see this working well for kids or college students, but I have my doubts that this is ideal for seniors (mostly because they are probably a little less prone to go near wifi as frequently, and the specific selection of a smartphone as the ONLY usable device).

    I feel their selection of phone was probably tied to LG not having yet secured a very large part of the smartphone market...sorta like Android having first started on T-Mobile, because both sides really needed each other. It's a shame they couldn't have brought a newer and higher end device to the table as well for the people who make relatively few calls or hang near wifi most of the time but actually have need of a more powerful device.

  • Vi

    Looks interesting, but there is a discount code that gets you going for 99 bucks. But I really need to be reassured that while it has Gingerbread will it come with all of the normal apps like Google Nav, gmail, and so on. I also need to know the phones has BT working correctly out of the box.

    I'm thinking the there will be no Android updates just like Virgin Mobile!

    • http://feathertail.dreamwidth.org Tachyon Feathertail

      What's the discount code, or how can we get it?

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        I've updated the post with the $99 deal.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      It comes with the Market and a bunch of Gapps, including Nav, Gmail, etc.

  • Jake

    Does the 300mb include usage of wifi along with the 3G, or just the 3G?

    • jake

      300MB is mobile data - Wi-Fi is unlimited and encouraged.

  • mark l

    I'm pretty sure you CAN bring outside phones into Republic Wireless. It just has to be an unlocked GSM phone. Also, it needs to be able to use the 1700mhz band for 3g speeds, otherwise it'll set you back to EDGE

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      No, you can't - they specifically state so. Where are you getting this false information? Let alone that Sprint uses CDMA, not GSM, and runs on 1900Mhz, not 1700.

    • Vi

      No you can't, they require a modified (by them ) device! I wonder if you can activate a rebublic phone on Virgin mobile, in case things don't go well.

  • http://jonathanl.am Jonathan

    Their plan intrigued me when I heard about it, but I doubt I can use less than 300 MB of mobile data, so it's a no go for me. Besides, it's not that much cheaper than Virgin Mobile, and with them I don't have to worry about my usage as much.

  • Ken Masters

    So everything goes over the internet including calls and texts? It's just like me with my out of service EVO 4G using Google Voice via the official app and GrooVe IP sans the Sprint backup.

    • PB

      This is exactly what I do with my Hero, Evo 4G, and my Asus Slider

  • Vi

    It sounds like a Vonage (Lingo with me) phone setup that you can take with you. So for what it costs, if it has good QoS, Vonage will not be amused!

    I wonder if they port?

    • cosmic

      That was my thought as well. A good house phone with wireless back up.

  • xFKNxWillisx

    it is basically a cellular VoIP it seems....with 3G service with you leave your WiFi area. not a bad deal considering. better phone is needed tho...Optimus is kinda dated now.

  • Hmmmm

    Seems like a normal prepaid data only plan to me with disadvantage of you supplying the network when you are in wifi and only using DATA mode to talk in VOIP/SIP when out of Wifi range, No idea what they mean by unlimited everything but I'm guessing that's only if you are on wifi which smart people can get unlimted text with WHATSAPP for text/mms and Google voice for calls. I see no benefits in this MVNO carriers way of doing bussiness at all. Seems like a huge rip off ment for people who don't know better about tech.

  • victor

    300mb?! Ha. I'd blow through that in a few min. This is def not for me. What a shame.

    • Joseph

      it's 300MB's of 3G. which is the fallback. it will mostly run on wifi. unless you live in a place where wifi is never available I don't see how you would go over the alloted CELLUAR data usage...

      a lot of you are focusing on the 300MB's of 3G Data and not paying attention to how their service is intended to work. Which is WIFI everywhere it can, with celluar data as a back up.

  • chris

    It is not for power users like u victor? Those idiots. Dont bother us again before we can download 10 gb per day for 2 cents a month

    • Brian

      All he said was it wasn't for him. Not like he was berating the company or something. This is a sweet deal for the typical light user, but I have to agree that this, unfortunately, is not for me either. I use 5-8GB/month (I don't tether either). I might pick this up for my mom though. She wants an Android phone and could easily stick within these limits

  • Gil

    Its really weird to hear that almost all of you use so much data. I am always on my Nexus One browsing, researching, downloading, and in my spare time gaming. I seem to only really need about 200-250K. In the small town that I live in, we have WiFi EVERYWHERE. I have made sure that my phone takes advantage of them all. At home, I'm using WiFi. At work, I'm using WiFi. At McDonald's grabbing a bite, I'm using WiFi. I am currently using my Nexus One on AT@T's Go Phone package, and I never thought I would resort to going Prepaid, but I'm glad to be saving money and still having all the benefits. I think RW is a step in a good direction.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      I think you meant to say 200-250 MB, there's no way you are using just 200-250K a month. Your phone will use that up just between home and work.

  • lettcco

    would have try it if they allow BYOP (I got an EVO 4G sitting around), until then.

  • Questions

    Which version of the Optimus is this and what processor does it have - anyone know?

    • mr_malina

      Looks like the LG Optimus S and V.

  • J

    Has anyone determine the processor being used?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Should be CDMA 600 MHz MSM7627 ARM1136EJ-S.

  • http://www.geeknik.com/ geeknik

    I believe that there are nearly 300 CDMA networks in 100 countries, so they aren't nearly as rare as you think.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

      That's kind of a bad statistic, sorta like 'shipped vs. sold' numbers, it's not representative of the numbers people care about. Out of that 300, about 60% of them are government agencies/groups/military installs that are only used specifically by the people working there. About 10% of the remaining are here just in the US and tightly controlled by their corporate masters...The final chunk of those networks are found primarily in Eastern Europe, Africa and wherever else that is poor enough that they need to buy older and decommissioned equipment. I realize there are a couple of CDMA networks in Japan, China and a couple of other richer nations, but those are almost entirely upstart networks that have gained very little traction.

      Somebody shipped 300 CDMA networks, but only a few people have been able to sell them ;)

  • dust

    Intersting. Guess it could also use another phone running as a WiFi hotspot if you need more minutes. Hope this takes off, we need more competition and options.

  • a dude with questions

    i've been thinking of making a switch to android phone. never used one, how is this phone according to its specs? the phone run decently fast? is gingerbread good?

  • Paul

    I don't know. It sounds tempting but Simple Mobile is now $40 unlimited talk/text/web and you can use any T-Mobile phone w/o unlocking it or anything and you don't have to worry about your Cellular usage. That's $40, no taxes or anything. So if you pay $22 or whatever to this company, pay $18 more a month and get a choice of a lot more phones, and get full access to the T-Mobile network. Maybe for somebody who mainly uses the phone at home and wants something on the cheap but still. I've had dealings with bandwidth.com, they're a VoIP Service Termination Provider, so they're obviously leveraging their SIP Termination trunks with this plan.

    • a dude with questions

      how does simple mobile work? is it hard to sign up?

  • Gabby

    There's no sim card?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      CDMA devices don't have sim cards.

      • Gabby

        so we can't use it on other things besides with this company?

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