The idea of Apple disrupting carriers with its own Wi-Fi VoIP service sounded too wild to be true, but Republic Wireless just one-upped that notion with a $19 per month unlimited service that makes unprecedented use of Wi-Fi. Here's the deal: the company behind Google Voice calling is setting up its own wireless carrier that leans heavily on Wi-Fi connections for making calls and serving up data. In addition, they've set up a deal with Sprint for 3G and voice services that subscribers can use when they're away from an access point.
Republic Wireless costs a mere $19 per month, which is about a quarter of the price of the average smartphone bill. And here's the crazy part: it's contract free.
If it sounds too good to be true, there's probably a catch, right? Well, yeah--Reublic Wireless reserves the right to drop you if you are using too much 3G instead of Wi-Fi. They can afford to charge so little money because your own Internet service is doing most of the work. Their VoIP service pays for the phone calls, and the rest is on you. But if you spend most of your time on 3G instead of Wi-Fi, they might drop you for working against their business model.
That sounds like a fair trade, considering there are no monthly fees. Republic Wireless actually has a page titled What's the Catch? that spells out how much data you can realistically use. 550 minutes of talking, sending 150 texts, and consuming 300 megabytes of data via 3G will still leave you in the clear. And Republic Wireless has developed a feedback system to warn you about your 3G usage, so it's not like one month of intense 3G use will spell your doom.Really, using Republic Wireless will come down to your own habits and self control. And the speed of your Internet connection, of course. They recommend a minimum 80kbps up and down to hold a quality call.
This probably still sounds too good to be true, and there is one other drawback: Republic Wireless' Hybrid Calling system launches with support for a single phone, a customized LG Optimus running Gingerbread. No smartphone user will jump at the chance to use that device, but Republic Wireless claims more are on the way. The Galaxy S II might be among them.
The LG Optimus phone costs $199--again, no contract--or $99 with a "welcome19" promo code good through November 27. Until a killer phone is available on the network, we can't see too many people dropping their providers to make the switch. With a phone like the Galaxy S II, though...would you be able to survive on a Wi-Fi-heavy diet if it meant paying only $19 per month to your carrier?