Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless has been making waves the past couple of days with their new spin on the way a carrier works.  The plan is pure genius:

  • Buy an LG Optimus One and the first month's service for $199
  • Enter all the Wifi AP information for where you live, work, and play
  • Get unlimited voice, texts, and data for $19 a month

What's not to love, right?  On paper it seems the perfect solution, and people like myself who whine talk all the time about carrier "reform" here in the states should be in heaven.  And it's Android, so that's double the kickass factor.  But chances are, if you're a member of Android Central, it's not going to work for you.

Republic Wireless uses Wifi for all their services.  If we're to believe that Wifi is everywhere (like carriers who cap their data try to tell us), then it's a perfect situation.  Cheap, unlimited, and Android.  Unfortunately, Wifi isn't everywhere -- no matter what dudes in suits try to say.  So we have to look to the fine print, which reads a bit differently.  While not on Wifi, you're limited to 550 minutes, 150 SMS messages, and 300MB data monthly while on Republic Wireless' 3G network.  Go over those numbers, and you've violated Republic's fair use policy.  When that happens you hear from Republic (in their own words):

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.

OK, so nobody is going to come to your house and break your legs or cut off your wife's pinky finger.  But I'm sure the next step involves you and Republic parting company.  I know I could burn through that SMS and data limit in a busy day out of the office, and I'm sure a lot of you guys can as well. 

It sounds like I'm bashing Republic, but I'm not.  I applaud what they're trying to do here, and I'm all warm and fuzzy inside with feelings that make me want to buy everyone involved a beer or two.  Changing the status quo needs baby steps, and Republic is on the right track.  I just wanted to make sure everyone takes the time to read the fine print and make sure the service is going to work for them.  As for myself, I'll have to wait for version 2.0.

More: Republic Wireless


Reader comments

Republic Wireless -- a great idea that's not quite there yet


I'll do everyone here one better: I too, will sell you unlimited data*, but I'll do it for $5 a month.

*(so long as you can use someone else's wifi for the data)

550 minutes, 150 SMS messages, and 300MB of data while not on Wi-Fi ... unlimited everything while on Wi-Fi ... for $19 a month. How many people would really blow through that while away from Wi-Fi? I think it would be easy to make sure you stayed within those limits. On a related topic, why are people paying extra for texting from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile anyway if they have a smartphone with a data plan? I use my free Google Voice number for texting and have never paid a dime to AT&T for texting. Texting plans are nothing but a cash cow for the carriers.

I have a two line family plan with Verizon. We have wifi at home and at work. We never use more than 300 minutes or 250 MB of data per line per month. Something like this would save me $100/month, but the phone selection makes me think twice about switching.

i would go over the texting limit in about 5 hours and the data limit within 5 days. not for me, but this is android...something for everyone

This sounds great for many many people.
550 minutes
150 sms
300 mb data
$19 a month
No carrier out there offers a plan that good.
the wifi feature is icing on the cake.
It's not for me, but I think it would be great for my parents or certain kids.

I still have a few questions like:

If you initiate a call on wifi and go out of range, does it drop or transfer to cell coverage?

I for one have moved my number to google voice a few months back when I went to Virgin Mobile and wasn't sure if I would stay with them or not. With that I don't use any sms stuff and I can make/receive calls via my desktop. The 300MB of data is what would kill it for me. I would love the 550 minutes but the data is just abysmal. I do know of some people in my family that this would benefit greatly though.

Yeah might work for some, disappointed in the company already. I work from home and on my wireless all the time, BUT when I go long boarding and workout I use Rhapsody and I can get 1gig to 1.5 gigs a month of data. So really their not "unlimited"

I was wondering if there was a way to lock it out from using 3g, cause this would be great for my son who goes between his moms and my place everyweek.

You could already do this for a lot cheaper using an old Android you may have (or one off Craigslist), Google Voice (free), & GrooVe IP ($4.99 in the Market).

Just leave the phone in Airplane mode (or disable wireless data in the settings), set it up on yours & his mom's WiFi network & your son would have a phone that will work anytime he is within range of an open WiFi network.

I actually use Sipdrod on my phone and sipdroid when it's on routes all calls through the WIFI.

However this plan offers a little more that what you mentioned. It offers 3G support. Which cannot be accomplished with an old Android phone unless you have a data plan.

I think this is a great deal.

This plan does offer 3G, but the commenter that I was replying to asked if there was a way to disable the 3G option & use it as WiFi only for his son.

I was simply pointing out an option (which the Sipdroid one is an alternate) that met their needs.

From their facebook page:
"People of the republic, we'd just like to clarify that 550 minutes, 150 texts, and 300 MB of data over 3G is just an example, not a limit. The more you offload to Wi-Fi, the more you can use. It's truly unlimited. We do have fair use guidelines and we encourage you to use Wi-Fi whenever possible."

Also, if you use the code welcome19 by November 27th and your first month's service (including the phone) is only $99. $81 for a new Optimus One is a great deal by itself.

Thank you, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who noticed that those are NOT actual limits, just an example.

I don't have a problem with the concept, the concept is great. I have a problem with the phone. They get no bonus points from me for having an Android phone - when that Android phone is an LG Optimus.

You guy did know that the more you use text, voice, and data on wifi...the more your limit goes up for being away from wifi right?
This is a community as long as everyone is good there will be more 3g services for you to use while away from a wifi area.

How much cellular usage is too much?
It depends. 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.

I can work with that. Wifi at home and work + all of that. My feature phone on my family plan cost more then that. and I get less

and if I understand it correctly the cell usage is based on a % of cell vs. wifi usage so if I use lots of data while connected to wifi I will be able to use more data on the cell network.

I would like to see Google do this. Buy them out and make this the Nexus line. release a high end device that uses wifi as much as it can then cell when needed. could charge 400 for the device you can make that up in savings in a year. and with no contract!

What happens if you use more wifi? do "get" more minutes.

RW website doesnt says u only have 550 min, it says ASSUMING 0% wifi. I think you took that out of contect AC...

Good question but in reverse- many of us, including me, would use almost no "minutes" of cell phone use outside of a wifi area, but would want to use more 3G data.

Seems confusing and yet interesting at the same time.

We currently have Verizon with a family plan and pay probably $60 for each line.

I am away from home a lot and use my 3G, etc because there are few public wifi spots.

My wife is at home a lot and on wifi probably 90% of the time. This would save us a ton of money if I could adjust my usage while at work.

I'm not ready to pioneer this service and drop Verizon since I have been a customer of theirs for so long though.

Everyone needs to keep in mind that:

* Just because you have WiFi "at work", doesn't mean you have access to all ports (at my work, WiFi is mostly restricted to non-multimedia web browsing).

* And often, public and semi-public "wifi" networks require you to "login" to them via a browser first. If you don't do that, there will be no INCOMING calls...

* And the quality of pubic WiFi networks might suck or it could be biased or have no QOS on that network, all leading to choppy or no voice.

Not a bad idea, and I can see it working, especially with the "more you use the more you get" offset.
Now this company needs to get the manufactures attention and get some better device's in their lineup.

Interesting idea nonetheless, and one that I may consider for my smartphone craving son. I've insisted that he pay the monthly fees so this might be affordable for him.

Regardless of whether we go for it, though, is exactly why I love Android.

Number of voice/data/text iPhone plans available for $19.99/month in the US = 0
Number of voice/data/text Windows phone plans available for $19.99/month in the US = 0
Number of voice/data/text Blackberry phone plans available for $19.99/month in the US = 0
Number of voice/data/text Android phone plans available for $19.99/month in the US = 1 (as of tomorrow).

Android rocks.

Has anyone stopped to think how awesome a home phone this could make if you've got wifi at home? Think about it, for less than $20 a month you get unlimited calling over your home wifi network. I know about GV and groover IP, but that's kind of a rigged way of doing it, this seems integrated with the OS, which means it should behave no differently than if you're use a cell network to make a call.

For a home phone only, I don't see how this is a better solution even than something like MagicJack which is <$20 a YEAR.

This definitely a cool idea, but my experience with WIFI away from home in general, is there almost always something quirky about the connection. I go to places with "open" WIFI, and there are time my phone sees and connect to the network, but does nothing while connected.

Even if it was truly unlimited service, it just can't compete with my $25 Virgin Mobile plan. Sure I only get 300 minutes, but that's more than enough for me. I could save $6 a month by switching to Republic, but that's not enough value for me to give up my grandfathered plan on a proven and reputable carrier. Plus I don't have WiFi at work.

My son lives on a Wi-Fi enabled college campus -- perfect plan for him. Love the way it will switch to/from Wi-Fi to 3G.

You know, I have a Google Voice number, and Groove IP and can make unlimited calls while on WiFi using my cell phone, plus unlimited text via Google Voice. And it cost me a one time fee of $5 (for Groove IP).

And you know what? WiFi is in many places, but not everywhere. And in some places, there isn't enough bandwidth to support the VoIP call.

If you cancel your cell phone service (or have it canceled for you) but still have the phone, why pay $20 per month? Use what I suggested for a one time charge of $5. And all cell phone towers have to access 911 calls rather you have a plan with the cell company or not. So, you still have it for emergency calls as well.

This is a nice concept. And I think it could work, but it would just take some changing up in lifestyle that I think after awhile would just become the norm for people considering this.

Definitely would get "killwifi" with this phone for those places that would have high traffic on banwidth. No issues after that LOL.

This article is based on a complete misconception...those numbers are NOT hard limits. In fact, the web page that these numbers were pulled from specifically says you WILL NOT cross their fair-use threshold with those examples. Check out their Facebook page and this is clarified. Basically, it's ratio-based - the example you quoted is based on 0% wifi usage. So essentially, the more you use wifi, the more cell usage you will get.

Thank you. Glad someone else noticed that the author misinterpreted the statement.

Poor reading comprehension + poor journalism = mass misinformation

You have been bs'd my friend! You will not get more cell usage.
You will be held to either wifi or 550 minutes max on sprint/150 texts/ 300mb of data. You can use wifi all month long you will not get more usage from the network. Do you really think oh everyone will not use so much so I can get a higher cap? My god you are not using your brain. Just like the rest of the world people will suck up every bit they can, republic wireless will be up to their heads in notices of overage and shut downs. Hey as long as you found there facebook go see what people are already saying, and no one has even received a phone yet. You and people like you make me laugh, you stick up for something that is a joke and others follow. You should be ashamed of yourself.

This article is on point! 100%

I think something everyone here is forgetting about the currently free WiFi option from Google is that, it is free in 2011. Once January hits, we will be paying for that WiFi VOIP. So, if this is offered for $20/month and I can use it to make my local and long distance calls at home + play with the Android apps (yes, I admit that's waht I would do), then it really works well for me.

people, this is old technology. hell you can get majicjack for $20 a year. This will only run good voip at your house or work. Ok use it there that's great, but if you think you can wonder on down the road and access open wifi spots for voip you have been mislead. Most open wifi at this point limit bandwidth per connection to slower then 3G speeds, voip will drop on that. Other wifi's have a secure code and you won't be able to login, and yet others ask you to log in from a web page but it's free, that won't work for voip unless you want to take a break every 40 yards to log in to the next web/wifi spot. Texts you get 150 now we all know if you are in one of the big systems you do way more then 150 texts. Oh you say well it's unlimited on my wifi. Yeah well you got unlimited at your PC right now online. Now you say well not incoming, ahh the real big catch. So if you get a bunch of texts coming in and your not by wifi you better turn them off. data, please people you know you can stream 15mb in ten minutes now days, and if you start downloading pictures. Get serious! This is a joke ... don't believe me keep watching, right now at republic wireless facebook people are going nuts. over charges, lost orders, stoppage of new orders, new directions telling everyone that signed after like the first 100 phones they have to wait for a new shipment. Go to FB see for yourselves. Plus each phone has to have it's radio changed to work on this plan, that's right did you read the fine print, phone won't work anywhere else. No other phone will work with this plan but the ones they fix the radio on. should I go on? Look I really hope I can save some people from trying this loser program, it's just not going to work. I cannot wait until they actually get their new phones and realize how often the voip drops them, and they suck up all the sprint network use they are allotted and get a warning. Whoo that's gonna be fun to watch at facebook.

rusty.gh23 has pretty much nailed it with his interpretation. I was one of those guys that decided to give them a whirl the day they launched. What a frackin' joke RW was on launch day!! By the end of the day, people were pissed off at them, as evidenced by the 32 pages of forum threads, not to mention the absolute outcry on Facebook - and I'm not talking a few comments, I'm talking hundreds of comments. People were getting overcharged, double charged, getting no confirmation that their order was valid - but definitely seeing their credit card charged, some were even getting a letter saying thank you for buying our service but they never actually got to pay. I was one that got severely overcharged with no confirmation of my order being valid but was quickly charged on my credit card. The first thing I did was pick up the phone to call so they could adjust my credit card charge and make everything right. Guess what? No phone number on their website. Already I'm very suspicious. So, I do the next best thing and call their parent company,, who has the SAME corporate address as RW - I'm guessing they were just a few cubicles down the hall. "Oh, we can't connect you to them, they don't speak to customers calling in." WTH?!?!? They better damn well speak to me as they have severely over billed me. I get some techie that tells me to send and email and it will ALL be sorted out. So, I did. 7 emails and 3 days later it STILL was not sorted out. I even emailed the general manager who told people to email him if they had a problem - nothing from him either. At this point, I'm thinking this is a scam and so did many others as Facebook comments and their forum blog have erupted with angry people asking what the hell is going on - all with the same basic concern - you have my money but I've received no receipt, no confirmation, and nothing telling me when I should expect shipment of my phone and new service. By now, people were starting to post internal phones numbers they had found on the web onto their forums and Facebook page. And what was RW's answer to this? They started deleting Facebook comments and blocking users trying to help each other get the answers they were looking for because RW was not stepping up to the plate. People were also posting telephone numbers on their forum blog and RW executives were going on there and deleting those posts as well because they simply did not want to hear from customers that wanted their money back or wanted to call and report a problem with billing. All they kept saying was follow us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and email us, but they were not responding to any emails and the answer you got on Facebook was "email us again." I mean, talk about Mickey Mouse operations! Then they started sending out form email replies that simply stated "We are working on it, please be patient." I know, I got two of them! At this point, I started calling the numbers that people were posting and getting the voicemail for the CEO and the GM. Guess what? They never returned my call or passed it along to one of their lackey boys to address my concerns. In the end, I called my credit card and filed a fraud claim. I can't stress enough how much people need to stay clear of this company. If they can't handle taking internet orders and troubleshooting those problems, can you imagine what it is going to be like when they flip the switch to start the actual phone service they are selling?? RW is clearly in over their heads. They weren't ready for a public launch of anything. They definitely needed several more months to get the needed staff in place to man a customer service center that they apparently don't have. Do yourself a favor, don't ditch your current carrier just yet. You may just regret it.

Oh, and if there is anyone left that still wants to do business with this company and you need customer service support, you're going to have to bug them and pester them by calling them non-stop to get anywhere. Here are the numbers. They are valid as I've called them.

919-297-1079 - Brian Dally, general manager of RW
919-297-1010 - David Morken, CEO
919-297-1100 - this is an automated company directory. If you know the last name of someone at RW, and their important members' names are posted at their website, I'm sure you could reach just about anyone to make them listen to you.

Best of luck to all those that think RW is the next, best thing. They definitely do not deserve my money or my business.

"Unfortunately, Wifi isn't everywhere"

Actually, it is, just not open WiFi. And why are most WiFi networks closed? Because they don't want people using up their bandwidth or getting them in trouble. What we need is technology to allow these network owners to sell part of their bandwidth in a way that is revocable (unlike giving out their password) and does not interfere with their own internet.

Then this WiFi cell phone can truly become a reality.