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$19 dollars for unlimited cell phone service? Republic Wireless has gone crazy.

November 8, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka

Carriers

republic-wireless1

UPDATE: Republic Wireless is unclear on what “unlimited” means. Language on the website paints a picture that it may not be truly unlimited. Article updated to reflect that important difference.

Most people who lived in the New York metro area probably remember Crazy Eddie, an overly excited man who dropped prices so low he must have been crazy. Well, it seems Eddie must have gone into the cell phone business because Republic Wireless is launching its service for $19.

Yes, $19.

Republic Wireless promises new customers that it will provide unlimited calling, text, and data for only $19 per month. No contracts, no complicated calling plans, and no overage fees. Give Republic $19 and it will give you an LG Optimus One-style phone and unlimited calling, texting, and data.

Craz…I mean, Republic Wireless is able to do this because it is not a traditional service provider. The way it works is that Republic issues consumers a specially-built LG Optimus phone that is optimized to rely on Wi-Fi calling. Wherever a Wi-Fi network is available, users can make and receive calls, send messages, or browse the web. When Wi-Fi isn’t present, the phone falls back onto the Sprint 3G network. Republic Wireless believes that Wi-Fi penetration is vast enough to meet most user demands, and having the option to use 3G when it’s not will be a distinctive advantage over other Wi-Fi calling services.

Republic is offering dirt-cheap calling and data plans at a quarter of what the bigger carriers charge. Being unable to bring high-end devices from HTC or Samsung at the moment means heavy hitters probably won’t find this feasible. It would take a higher class of smartphone to make me switch, but for the budget concious, Republic may actually be worth giving a shot. The company is launching with a “risk-free 30 day guarantee” that will refund the $199 plus tax costs for purchasing a phone and starting service.

UPDATE: Republic Wireless is not very clear on what it defines as unlimited. The company claims “There’s no catch” and that it is unlimited, however it has “fair use” guidelines to monitor how much 3G data you use (Wi-Fi is unlimited). Republic will send you messages to show how to use less cellular data, but says it will “never charge you overages, limit your download speeds, or restrict you to calling circles,” but then what’s the point of “fair use” guidelines? If there’s no punishment to fear, what’s to stop customers from using up as much cellular data as they want?

Thanks, FelisLachesis

Republic Wireless via  GigaOM