We want to love Republic Wireless, the new cellular company owned by Bandwidth.com that wants to revolutionize a U.S. cellular industry that is in desperate need of a rethinking. Republic Wireless sees the powerful potential of a widespread Wi-Fi network, and assumes people are able to connect to Wi-Fi networks at least 60% of the time, which means these customers should be able to make phone calls, send text messages, and consume data primarily over Wi-Fi, with a cellular network available as a backup for those times where you’re not connected.
Because most consumers will use Wi-Fi a lot of the time, Republic Wireless can contract with the currently existing cellular networks for sharing agreements. Republic Wireless currently has a sharing agreement with Sprint, allowing Republic Wireless users the opportunity to use Sprint’s nationwide 3G network when not connected to Wi-Fi.
When Republic Wireless originally launched, they held customers to a Cellular Usage Index, which gave Republic Wireless the power to boot customers off their network whose cellular to wifi usage ratio was too high (after some usage counseling, of course). Earlier this week, Republic announced that they have dropped this requirement, and would offer a truly unlimited data, text, and talk plan for only $19 per month.
Though this option is very appealing for some, Republic Wireless’s significant drawback thus far is the lack of devices. Customers are required to use the entry level LG Optimus smartphone, which though it’s certainly one of the top entry-level devices out there, lacks the power and polish of the current high-end smartphones. And no, you can’t use your current smartphone on Republic Wireless’s network, as they currently have to build the ability to use Wi-Fi calling into the ROM/Operating System on their phones.
When we provided our first impressions of Republic Wireless a few weeks ago, we asked you what questions you’d like answered about the upcoming service. We’ve selected as many as we can, and have attempted to answer them to the best of our ability below.
How does Republic Wireless handle the transition from 3G to Wi-Fi to make calls?
This is actually the biggest drawback I’ve found with Republic Wireless so far. Currently, the transition of calls between networks is a mess, though Republic Wireless promises they are working on a seamless transition between networks. Currently, when I was on a phone call and stepped outside of a Wi-Fi coverage zone, it would hang up and call the person back immediately. Hardly an ideal solution, especially for important phone calls.
Will Republic Wireless be offering better devices in the near future?
As I indicated earlier in this post, Republic Wireless is planning to bring better devices to their network, though I wouldn’t expect them to get the highest end of device available today. Even if they did, you would be shelling out a significant amount of dough for these phones, which retail for $500-700 on contract.
How’s the call quality over Wi-Fi?
The call quality over Wi-Fi was actually pretty good, as long as you had a good connection. When I had a fair, good, or great connection, the call quality was fantastic. When I had only a poor connection, calls were muffled and folks on the other end had a very hard time hearing me.
Would I recommend Republic Wireless?
If you can live with the entry level LG Optimus smartphone, then going with Republic Wireless is a no-brainer, especailly with their recent move to shed the cellular usage index limitation and become a truly unlimited service. Also, I can’t wait to see what phones they offer next, and would even likely shell out $600 for a phone that will save me $1,200 over the life of the 2-year contract I would have with a traditional carrier.
As far as I can tell, Republic Wireless only has two drawbacks: the phone, and the way it handles transitions between 3G and Wi-Fi. Fortunately, these are two areas that Republic Wireless has promised a solution for, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with when they come out of beta early next year.
If you’re interested in putting yourself on the sign-up list, head over to Republic Wireless’s join page to get your name on their distribution list.