Updated: September 8, 2014
Current cell phone service can be quite costly due to the fact that the industry tends to be controlled by a handful of carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and others. But, what if you could use a wireless network whenever it is available in place of cellular service?
Every time you use the cellular service with your wireless carrier, the company incurs costs associated with providing the service to you. Some of the current cellular carriers also place limitations on the number of phone calls you can make over their 3G and 4G networks, restrict data usage, charge extra fees, overcharge for cell phones, and raise monthly rates on a consistent basis.
So, what if you had another option that allowed you to make calls, browse the Internet, and send text messages over a wireless network for as little as $5 per month?
Republic Wireless was initially launched in 2012 and is a relatively new cell phone technology that takes advantage of ubiquitous and cost-effective Wi-Fi by rethinking the way cell phone service is offered. With Republic Wireless, you are allowed to make telephone calls over the Internet with unlimited talk time and texting and unlimited access to the Internet for a very small fee each month.
This means you do not pay extra if you go over your data usage limit and there are no roaming charges. Additionally, you are not bound to a contract and there are no penalties for terminating your contract early.
How Republic Wireless Works
Republic Wireless works through what is known as Hybrid Calling. Hybrid Calling allows your smartphone to use your Wi-Fi connection in your home, in the office, or at any public Wi-Fi connection to make calls and access the Internet. If you are on the outside of a Wi-Fi zone, your smartphone will use the Republic Wireless cellular network service to make calls and connect to the Internet.
Hybrid Calling is based on the fact that you are surrounded by wireless connections for most of the day. Therefore, Republic Wireless designs their phones to automatically connect to the nearest wireless access point and route your phone calls over that connection. If there is no Wi-Fi available, your phone will automatically connect to the cellular network and then switch back when the next Wi-Fi access point is within your reach. The process of switching between two different types of networks is a seamless process without experiencing hassles with dropped calls, connection noises, or delays in communication.
Republic Wireless is very inexpensive and costs just under $20 dollars a month depending upon the plan you choose. The smartphones you get with the service are much lower cost than cellular carriers and are capable of accessing a wide variety of Wi-Fi networks. This ends up costing significantly less than working with the handful of cell phone carriers that have control over the industry. Everything is routed over Wi-Fi whenever possible to provide the consumer with a better value and freedom of connectivity without a binding contract.
Republic Wireless offers a number of unlimited plans which we will discuss later in this article, no activation fees, no roaming charges, wireless calling when you are traveling abroad and the ability to switch plans up to two times per month. Additionally, Republic Wireless has expanded its phone offerings while still keeping things simple.
On the lower end of the price spectrum, they offer the Moto G Android phone for $149 and the Moto X on the higher price range at $299. The selection of phones is limited however, this is Republic’s way of keeping things simple when it comes to obtaining cellular phone service.
Here is a brief video from Consumer Reports on Republic Wireless and what some of the consumers say about the service.
Sounds Too Good to Be True
Wi-Fi users who have heard about Republic Wireless think it is too good to be true and they wonder what the catch is. If you visit the Republic Wireless website, the company will tell you that the users are the catch and the network is powered by all Republic Wireless users.
If you use wireless Internet more than 60 percent of the time, all you have to do is configure your smartphone to access the Wi-Fi network wherever you are, regardless if you are home, at the office, or in a public Wi-Fi area. You pay a flat fee every month for unlimited calling and Internet access. If you do happen to spend a lot of time outside of a wireless access range, you can check the Cellular Usage Index. If you are paying more than you want to for a cellular connection, then Republic Wireless will show you ways to reduce the cost of a cellular connection.
Other than not being able to access a Wi-Fi connection in some locations, there is no catch. The cellular service only kicks in when you are outside the range of a wireless connection. If you become a member of Republic Wireless, you are required to establish one Wi-Fi connection either in your home or elsewhere to maintain the Republic Wireless community fair use policy. You are also provided with access to a CUI or Cellular Usage Index to view metrics, such as the percentage of Wi-Fi you use as compared to the amount of cellular service you use.
Types of Republic Wireless Phones
Republic Wireless basically provides you with three different options for obtaining a cell phone. The options include choosing the Moto G, Moto X, or you can design your own customized Moto X phone. All phone models are offered in black or white and vary in features according to the model you choose.
The Moto G phone is offered in an 8GB version for $149 or a 16GB version for $179. Both versions of the Moto G run on the Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system and offer either 8GB or 16GB of internal memory. You also have access to 3G data and a 5MP (megapixel) rear facing camera with LED flash and 720p high definition video capability running at 30 frames per second. The front facing camera is 1.3MP and capable of handling 720p video.
The Moto G phone offers a 4.5-inch display with a 1280 x 720 high definition resolution. The display is finished with tough Corning Gorilla Glass wand a water repellant coating that covers the entire device.
The Moto G runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad core processor running at 1.2GHz with 1GB of Random Access Memory (RAM). You also have access to Bluetooth 4.0, micro USB connectivity, a 3.5mm headphone jack, apps on Google Play, and wireless 802.11b/g/n.
The Moto X phone is offered in a 16GB version only for $299 and runs on the Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system. There is 16GB of internal memory with 3G and 4G LTE data capability.
The rear facing camera is 10MP with quick capture, LED flash and 1080p high definition video. The front facing camera is 2MP and is capable of handling 1080p high definition video.
The Moto X runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad core S4 Pro processor running at 1.7GHz. The processing performance is backed by 2GB of Random Access Memory and sports a 4.7-inch AMOLED display screen. You also have access to Bluetooth 4.0 LE and EDR and wireless 802.11 a/g/b/n/ac which is dual band capable.
Here is a visual representation of the Republic Wireless top of the line Moto X phone.
PC Magazine also recently posted an article on the Moto X phone, including some of the pros and cons of using the device as well as the Republic Wireless service.
Build Your Own Moto X
You can also choose to design your own Moto X phone with prices starting at $349.99. With this option, you get a phone that runs on the Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system with a choice of 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of internal memory. The phone provides you with access to 3G and 4G LTE data and the ability to customize the front, back, and accent colors for the device.
The customized Moto X comes with a 4.7-inch AMOLED display and 10MP rear facing camera.
In terms of customization, Republic Wireless walks you through the process of customizing the other performance features and allows you to choose whether you want to go with a contract or no contract. When you design the phone, you are taken off the Republic Wireless website and onto the Moto Maker website where you can use the wizard to create your phone.
We should also mention that all phones described above come with a battery that lasts up to 24 hours.
Republic Wireless Plans
When you sign up for a wireless cellular plan with Republic Wireless, you can choose from four different plans. You are allowed to change you plan up to two times during the billing cycle. The plans include:
This is the base plan that provides you with access to unlimited wireless calling only, text messaging, and data over Wi-Fi for only $5 per month.
The Republic Plan
This plan provides you with unlimited calling and text messaging over both Wi-Fi and cellular service for $10 per month. This plan also includes unlimited data using a wireless connection.
Republic + 3G
This plan provides unlimited calling and text messaging services over both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular for $25 per month. You also get unlimited data on both wireless and 3G cellular as well.
Republic + 4G
The Republic + 4G plan provides you with unlimited calling and text messaging services over wireless and cellular networks for $40 per month. You also receive unlimited data over wireless and 4G networks.
Additionally, according to the Republic Wireless Terms of Service, the company may reduce your connection speed if you exceed 5GB of data while using your cell phone or you exceed 100MB of data while roaming.
How to Sign Up with Republic Wireless
Membership to Republic Wireless begins with choosing a phone. You must first select the phone you wish to use and then add it to your shopping cart on the Republic Wireless website. Then you simply select your plan, choose any accessories you wish to purchase, and then go through the checkout process. Your phone is typically delivered within two to three business days and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Once you receive your phone, you can go to the Republic Wireless website under Activate Your Phone. Republic will step you through the process of getting started with your plan. In most cases, if you have an existing number you wish to keep, it is possible to transfer phone numbers to and from the service.
In addition to receiving an Android phone and setting up an account, you also receive with your membership unlimited voice, text, and data usage, automatic default to a Wi-Fi connection when you are in range, access to nationwide cellular networks when there is no Wi-Fi within range ($10, $25, $40 plans only), no extra fees for termination, roaming, or data overage, and a no-risk 30-day money back guarantee.
If you do connect to a cellular network when there is no Wi-Fi, the service is provided by Sprint and Republic Wireless is responsible to its subscribers for access to the service. You do not purchase any minutes or cellular services from Sprint.
Republic Wireless relies on UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) wireless technology and users do not have to open a dedicated app to access the service. To sustain a telephone call, you must have a wireless connection speed of at least 80 kilobytes per second (kbps) from both ends. Republic Wireless has also kept in step with its plans to offer more Hybrid Calling-enabled devices with special hardware with the introduction of new Android phones.
Republic Wireless Customer Service
One of the ways Republic Wireless has been able to offer low prices is by eliminating the customer service support line. There is no number for you to call or any store that you can visit to receive support.
Most of the Republic Wireless customers get support from the community forum on the Republic Wireless website. This typically works for common problems but not necessarily for more complex issues. If you never use tech support, this will probably not be a problem for you.
As long as you know what you are getting yourself into, Republic Wireless is a real money saver. You just need to be aware that phone selection is limited, you must have a reliable and consistent Wi-Fi connection, and the access to customer service is limited and relies on the Republic Wireless community of members.
If you are fine with all of the above, Republic Wireless can be a great alternative to costly cellular plans.