$19/month Android plan is 'unlimited' thanks to Wi-Fi  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Republic Wireless announced a contract-free cellular plan that offers unlimited text, data, and voice for $19/month. The service requires a customized LG Optimus Android 2.3 phone ($199 with one free month of service) that switches automatically to Wi-Fi connectivity whenever it's available, according to the company.

VoIP backbone provider Bandwidth.com's Republic Wireless venture has gone live in beta mode, adopting a limited number of new customers until the service matures. TechCrunch, which broke the news on the stealth venture last week, has a follow-up story that offers further details.

$19/month Android plan is 'unlimited' thanks to Wi-Fi


Republic Wireless' LG Optimus phone with pointer indicating a green arc icon that shows Wi-Fi usage

The hybrid calling service uses a version of Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology. This is bundled in some T-Mobile BlackBerry and Android phones, including the T-Mobile MyTouch and Motorola Defy, but with much higher fees, according to a story in GigaOM .

Republic Wireless' UMA-based hybrid calling service automatically switches users to Wi-Fi whenever available. It then supports voice calls with VoIP technology, and IM with IP texting over Wi-Fi. Otherwise, the phone switches automatically to Sprint's 3G network.

Theoretically, the Voice over Wi-Fi service could provide better voice quality, depending on one's Sprint 3G coverage. The key benefit, though, is that Wi-Fi is generally free or cheap, and Republic Wireless pushes those cost savings on to the user. The $19 a month plan includes unlimited voice, text, and data in the U.S. with no overages, roaming, or termination fees, let alone contracts, says Republic Wireless.

$19/month Android plan is 'unlimited' thanks to Wi-Fi

According to Republic Wireless, its first phone is a modified version of an LG Optimus running Android 2.3. This would appear to be the original 3.8-inch, 1GHz Optimus One (pictured) as opposed to Sprint's 3.2-inch LG Optimus S .

The Optimus costs $199 without contract and includes one month of free service, after which the service costs $19 per month. A discounted price of $99 for the first month is available through Nov. 27.

The catch for both the regular or discounted plan is that Republic Wireless reserves the right to kick off any user who rarely uses Wi-Fi, says the company. Users must prove that a Wi-Fi connection is available to their phones, but they won't be disqualified unless they exceed at least 550 talk minutes, 150 texts, and 300MB of downloads per month over cellular, according to the company.

Users will be warned and given a chance to correct their usage patterns before they are booted off the network, says the company. Users can monitor usage with the help of a green icon in the shape of an arc that flips on when using Wi-Fi. This is much the same as the "eco" icons on hybrid cars.

One other catch for some is that there's no support for international networks as of now, but the company suggests this may change in the future. Also in the future, says TechCrunch, is a version of the Samsung Galaxy S II .

Availability

The Republic Wireless service with hybrid calling using the LG Optimus phone is available now in beta. Users are encouraged to sign up now for the service, which costs $199 the first month, including the phone, and then $19 a month after that. Within the first month, users can get a money-back guarantee, says the company.

A discounted price of $99 for the first month is available through Nov. 27 for users entering the "welcome19" promo code. More information may be found at the Republic Wireless site .

This entry was posted on 3:16 PM .