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Will Republic Wireless's $20 a Month for Smartphones Fly?

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November 04, 2011

Will Republic Wireless's $20 a Month for Smartphones Fly?

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

From the wonderfully-named site Guyism -- “What Guys Need,” and whatever guys need it’s certainly not this latest travesty from Volkswagen -- comes news that a new company, Republic Wireless, can cut the monthly costs of your smartphone by up to 75 percent.

Can they? So they say. Guyism reports that they use a technology called Unlicensed Mobile Access, which connects to public, open Wi-Fi networks and uses VoIP, “and when that’s not available, switching to GSM networks (think Sprint (News - Alert) or T-Mobile).”

As Forbes reported, “Republic, a division of, is expected to launch its hybrid cellular voice and VoIP service on November 8 and offer unlimited talk, text and data for a low monthly fee, with no contract required and no termination fees. The plan is also touted as truly ‘unlimited’ with no bandwidth caps.”

Great. Clever. How can it be so cheap? Company officials say it’s because they don’t invest in huge data networks -- “it’s seconded to Sprint for roaming,” Guyism says -- as well as using Wi-Fi when available.

It’s a nifty-enough idea, even as Guyism counts off the possible roadblocks -- 802.22 systems aren’t going to be up and running for a while, and “relying on other people’s networks, which may often be locked, for your wireless seems a bit iffy.”

Will it work? Prepaid Reviews notes that they’ll be cutting in half the current best plans on the market: “We’ve seen this before, of course, so it’s natural to question whether Republic Wireless will take the market by storm or it will bust.”

And in fact, the history isn’t good. “The last time we heard about an MVNO undercutting the market was Zer01,” Prepaid Reviews says, noting that “when they announced their service... Laptop Magazine even gave it best in show at CTIA (News - Alert) 2009. Of course, Zer01 ended up going bust before launching.”

Sobering. The bottom line, as Guyism sees it, is that if you live in a major city with a lot of open public Wi-Fi networks, then yeah, this could make sense. If it lasts.

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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