Republic Wireless went live on Tuesday with its impossibly cheap $19 unlimited talk, text and data plan, presenting a service that could potentially save some users a tremendous amount of money each month. “Newsflash: anything a cell network can do, the Internet can do better and cheaper,” Republic Wireless touts on its website. “So we think a truly smart smartphone should make a habit of using Wi–Fi for everything. Surfing. Texting. Sharing. And, yes, even talking.” Read on for more.
Thanks to software technology that offloads voice calling and SMS to Wi-Fi networks whenever possible, Republic Wireless uses Sprint’s cellular network only when Wi-Fi service is not available. When Wi-Fi connections are available, it uses UMA to pipe communications over the Internet.
Unfortunately, the term “unlimited” is apparently entirely unregulated in the wireless space, and Republic Wireless uses the term rather loosely. The carrier employs what it refers to as a “fair use threshold” that defines average monthly cellular service usage. Should a subscriber’s monthly usage regularly exceed that threshold by a significant amount, Republic Wireless will give said subscriber the boot.
“How much cellular usage is too much? It depends,” the carrier explains on its website. “Even assuming 0% wifi usage, for example, you could consume 550 minutes, send 150 texts, and download 300 megabytes of data without crossing the community’s fair use threshold. Everyone’s usage patterns will be different, but we’re confident you’ll be amazed at how little cellular you actually use when you have a phone that makes it easy to leverage the power of your Wi–Fi networks.”
The carrier’s FAQ continues,”What happens if I use more than the suggested guideline? First, you’ll be reminded of the guidelines and to what extent you’ve crossed the fair use threshold. We’ll provide you with tips for reducing your cellular footprint and plenty of opportunity to get back on track. When we contact you about your usage, we’ll let you know how much time you have to correct your problem.” If the problem isn’t corrected within the timeline specified, a subscriber’s service will be terminated.
Republic Wireless currently offers one smartphone, the Android Gingerbread-powered LG Optimus S, for $199.99 contract-free. The carrier has a “beta” label slapped on its service for the time being so outages may be an issue, and subscribers must establish at least one Wi–Fi connection before service can commence.