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Summary:

Republic is still in beta, but it’s now a much bigger beta. The mobile virtual network operator has fine-tuned its proprietary hybrid-connection technology and Wi-Fi hotspot network with the launch of a new Motorola phone. So it’s opening up the gates to its long waiting list.

Motorola DefyXT Republic Wireless

After running in closed beta for the better part of the year, Bandwidth.com’s virtual operator Republic Wireless is finally opening up its dirt-cheap $19 a month unlimited voice, SMS and data plans to new customers. It’s launching a new smartphone to boot, the Motorola Defy XT. The device is a heavy duty Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) phone Republic is selling for $249, but there’s something special below the faceplate.

According to Republic, it’s the first device fully integrated with its proprietary hybrid cellular-Wi-Fi connection management software. Republic isn’t just reselling off-the-shelf devices. It’s delving deep into the Android stack to change the way the phone connects the network, prioritizing wireless LAN connections over cellular and transforming circuit-switched mobile calls to VoIP-over-Wi-Fi whenever possible.

The savings from shunting all of that traffic to Wi-Fi – rather than pay wholesale voice and data partner Sprint for network airtime – allow Republic to keep its prices low and maintain that endangered species of mobile services, the unlimited and unthrottled data plan. Republic not only leverages its customers’ home and office Wi-Fi networks, but it has signed a deal with Devicescape to access a “virtual” hotspot network of 7.8 million open access points. In the U.S., where Devicescape’s network is the densest, the Wi-Fi aggregator has seen traffic offload rates as high as 40 percent among its customers, according to Devicescape CEO Dave Fraser.

Republic has actually been using Devicescape’s technology in a limited fashion for months, loading its connection management client into the first wave of LG Optimus smartphones it shipped. But by combining Devicescape’s technology with its own hybrid calling software, Republic says can now fully realize its Wi-Fi-first strategy and is thus ready to open the flood gates to new users.

The company is still is in beta, but according to a spokesman the company’s waiting list is now more than 100,000 prospective customers long, and Republic is now letting those people onto the network “in waves.” Republic hasn’t revealed how many people it allowed into the first beta round, but it said it is now ready to scale its business. Here’s what Republic GM Brian Dally had to say in the carrier’s blog:

Members of republic are better equipped than ever before to take advantage of Wi-Fi’s fullest potential, helping to make smartphones affordable for millions more in the process. That’s important at a time when Big Cell is busy making more money at higher prices, with more restrictions and continued confusing business practices.

Republic will be the first operator to carry the water-resistant Moto Defy XT, which sports a 3.7-inch Gorilla Glass display, 1 GHz apps processor and 5 MP camera. Republic is also encouraging its existing customers to upgrade to the new device, offering Optimus users a $100 discount if they buy the Moto smartphone.

  1. Thanks for keeping tabs on Republic, Kevin. I’ve signed up for a beta wave and did so by submitting my email address and zip code. In turn Republic notified me to be alert for my beta wave assignment. I live in a small WY town which is outside Sprint’s service territory. Do you think I will be eligible for Republic’s service? I can’t find any specific reference to the network footprint on their website. BTW, right now my MVNO service provider is StraightTalk which uses Verizon’s network where I live. The ST $45 p/mo plan saves me about $30 p/mo compared to when I was a VZW customer. Woohoo for disrupters!

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  2. LOVE it!

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  3. For those reading this and thinking $19/month is the greatest thing since sliced bread – THINK AGAIN! Republic Wireless offers NO CUSTOMER SERVICE and NO CUSTOMER SUPPORT. If you want support, you have to follow them on Twitter, FB or read page after page after page of useless forum posts in the hopes of finding solutions to your problems. If you have questions or concerns (and let’s not forget about the dozen of emails they force you to
    send, just so they can ignore them), call them directly to get the help you deserve.

    Republic Wireless phone numbers:

    919-297-1079 – Brian Dally, manager of RW
    919-297-1010 – David Morken, CEO

    919-297-1037 – Adam Oakley, order fulfilment specialist

    919-297-1100 – this is an automated company directory. If you know the last name of someone at RW, you can reach them that way too.

    Tim Jones, cell phone product specialist
    Sandra Perez, customer care team supervisor
    Sarah Davis, admin of forums/community boards
    Sean Rivers, admin of forums/community boards
    Jessica Orr, marketing/community specialist

    (BTW, I found these online at a consumer reporting website, where they earned negative marks – not to mention the complaints against them at the Better Business Bureau)

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  4. Have to reinforce the other comments here; this is a business that seems in way above their heads, and they have very questionable ethics when it comes to customer communications, implied promises, and even in reneging on direct promises made to customers. They did a bait-and-switch on many of us who ordered back in November with a $100 off discount; they failed to be able to deliver on many of those orders, said a couple times that they would honor the discount, but now (8 months later) they’ve reneged on honoring the discount. They edit out negative comments in their user forum (tho many negative comments still exist), so again I have to question their ethics. Being small, unethical, and unreliable is not a way for a startup to gain fans. Don’t expect RW will be around very long.

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