Several years ago, a fledgling wireless company advertised an unusual service idea: $20 a month for unlimited wireless service. This company, Republic Wireless, had enough demand for that service that it had a waiting list for this early beta test.
The requirements to participate in the beta test were a bit unusual: you had to search out wireless points to connect to and attempt to maximize your usage of cellular service through the wireless access points. The phones were specially designed for this functionality. Users who didn’t follow the WiFi ideal closely enough were told that their usage wouldn’t work with the service (i.e. using the cell network too much).
Today, Republic Wireless’ business model has continued to evolve. They still offer one and only one service plan: $20 a month (plus about $3 of applicable taxes and fees) for unlimited talk, test, and data. That price point is about one third lower than Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint offer for similar coverage.
The company currently offers one phone: a Motorola Defy XT smartphone. The phone does well operating the internet and is sharp and compact. Battery life is 1 day with heavy use and 2 with light use.
Today, there’s no requirement in the terms of service about how much WiFi you should use. Republic simply recommends that you maximize your WiFi as much as possible. On their website, they provide a metric for members to check out how much WiFi coverage they use as a percentage of total minutes (they community average is about 50 percent).
My experience: I paid $53.33 per month for a dumbphone (Motorola Adventure) through Verizon with a two year contract. I made the switch to Republic about two weeks ago. I paid $250 for the phone up front, pay about $23.50 a month with no contract, and will make up for the initial cost in about 13 months because of the $115 surcharge from Verizon for breaking my contract.
The Republic plan is pretty good. This is a plan designed to save a buck. If you need maximum connection with the latest phones 24/7, then Republic is not for you. Take, for example, the primary Republic quirk: if you walk out of range of WiFi, then the call is dropped. However, Republic has programmed the phone to automatically redial on the cell network (cell service though Sprint towers).
There is another minor quirk that the traditional user might not like: Republic Wireless customer service comes from an online forum. There is no one to call, and Republic does not operate stores.
Republic plans to offer three new phones in the fall of 2013. Can you beat a $23 monthly charge?