Save Money With Hybrid Cellular Phone Service
How does this sound to you, savvy mobile communications customer? A mobile smartphone that does talk, text, and web over WiFi for only $5/month? Or unlimited talk & text even without WiFi for $10 a month? Or talk, text and data for $25/month? Read on to learn how it's possible...
Republic Wireless: Cellular + WiFi
No, I haven’t been smoking anything; those are the plans offered Republic Wireless. No contract, either, and it’s post-paid, meaning you pay monthly depending on your usage. Republic Wireless phones use a clever hybrid communications concept, which minimizes use of the expensive cellular networks, and maximizes use of free Wifi in your area.
Whenever possible, your calls, text and data are handled by wifi. If there's no wifi signal available, the phone switches over to a cellular network. Because of this, Republic Wireless is very inexpensive when compared to Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile plans.
So what's the catch? Well, for starters, only Republic Wireless phones will work with the service, so you can't bring your own phone. You'll have to purchase a Moto X smartphone from Republic Wireless for $299. That's a no-contract price, so it's actually quite a bargain. You'd otherwise have to pay about $600 for this phone without a contract. Republic also offers the Motorola Defy XT, but they are sold out. You can buy them for under $100 on eBay, but be sure that it's specifically for Republic Wireless or it won't work.
You also need to know that you'll be using Sprint cellular service and you have to set up a WiFi login profile on the phone for every secured WiFi network you plan to use. For most people, that will be one or two network profiles: home and maybe work and/or school.
Wait, you need cellular *and* WiFI service? Yes, because Republic Wireless uses WiFi signals to carry as much traffic as possible via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). It switches your voice calls and text messages to Sprint's cellular network only when Wifi is not available. The company saves a ton of money and those savings are reflected in consumer prices.
There are a few other caveats to the Republic Wireless plans and technology. First, if you use more than 5GB of Sprint data per month for three consecutive months you will be throttled back to torturous 2G speed (about 144 Kbps). Second, a call will seamlessly switch from WiFi to cellular, but you must hang up to switch from using cellular to using WiFi. Third, Sprint is the smallest of the big four U.S. mobile carriers, covering only 230 markets; so Republic may not be ideal for travelers. See Sprint Coverage Map. On the plus side, in most cases you can port your existing number to Republic.
Is It Legal and Secure?
Why yes, it’s legal, it just sounds vaguely underhanded. But if you own the WiFi network or have permission to use it, as evidenced by your possession of the WiFi password, then it’s perfectly legit. It only looks dubious because you didn’t think of it first. And WiFi networks secured with a password will encrypt the traffic that is sent and received. So you needn't worry about calls or texts being intercepted by nefarious hackers.
In residential areas, home WiFi networks are increasingly being secured. I recently counted 25 networks within range of my high-gain USB WiFi adapter and only one was open; I guess people are taking my advice after all! See my related article Avoid These Five WiFi Security Mistakes.
So will Republic Wireless work with an unsecured, open WiFi network? I have not put that question to the test. But what I've read online tells me there is no technical hurdle to doing so. It would be wrong to use another’s WiFi without permission, and even illegal in some places. But many businesses provide unsecured WiFi networks for customers and grant permission to use them. I could not find a clear answer about privacy issues when using a Republic Wireless phone on unsecured WiFi, though.
By the way, eBay is awash in cheap, highly effective 1000mw WiFi adapters. The WiFi adapter in a typical mobile device boasts only 5 to 15mw of Internet-grabbing goodness. These 1000mw adapters (usually under $20) can connect to a router up to one mile away with a clear line of sight! The brand doesn’t matter; they all use the Realtek RA3070 family of chipsets.
Bottom line, Republic Wireless is one way to save money on your mobile phone service, if you have convenient access to Wifi, and you understand the limitations and caveats mentioned above.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 11 Dec 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Save Money With Hybrid Cellular Phone Service (Posted: 11 Dec 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved