Republic Wireless, a new wireless carrier that's promising unlimited voice, data and texting for $19 a month, has officially launched a beta version its hybrid service for smartphones.
Republic Wireless is founded on the idea that there are a lot of people who will be perfectly content using their smartphones primarily on a WiFi network, either at their homes, offices or while roaming.
"There are dozens of apps that you can download to do voice over Internet calling on your smartphone," Brian Dally, the company’s vice president, told PCWorld. "You can shave a little bit from your cellphone bill by doing that. But we're the first ever provider to come out with a fully integrated offering."
Republic Wireless users pay an initial startup fee of $199 that gets them one month of service and an LG Optimus phone that’s customized to work on the company's network.
Although a special phone is needed to join the network now, Dally didn't rule out the possibility of creating apps in the future that would allow any smartphone to access the system.
There are no contracts, termination fees or overage charges for usage.
Subscribers get unlimited voice, data and text on the WiFi portion of the service. The wireless portion of the service, though, is limited by a "fair use policy."
Those limits are calculated based on a ratio of WiFi to cellular usage. If zero percent of your usage was WiFi, for example, your monthly cellular usage would be limited to 400 minutes of talk, 600 MB of data and 200 texts. Those numbers would increase, however, as your WiFi usage increases.
When you approach violating a threshold of the fair use policy, the system will alert you to cut back on your wireless use and to increase your WiFi usage. You can also check your usage at a website accessible from your phone. If you exceed a fair use threshold, your wireless service could be cut off. And if you frequently abuse the fair use policy, you can be booted from the system altogether.
"For the vast majority of people who are in and around WiFi and are interested in this proposition, it's not going to be an issue," Dally said.
Dally believes that $19 could be just a starting point for the service. "We believe that $19 is the high end of what this should cost," he noted.
"We may be able to lower the price, or there might be segments of people that are so oriented to WiFi that we don't need to charge them $19," he added. "It could go lower."