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Posted: 1:48 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Republic Wireless $19/month unlimited smart phone

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A new company called Republic Wireless is offering unlimited talk, text and web for $19 per month with no contract…but it comes with a catch.

The offer only stands so long as you're within range of a wireless network so your activity can be routed over wifi. If you are not in range, your call is then routed over Sprint's backbone. In that case, you're capped at around 550 minutes, 150 texts or 300 MB of data per month. (Customers are required to purchase a low-end Android phone that still costs $199 to activate the plan.)

The big idea behind Republic Wireless is that most of the time we're using our phones, we are near or in a place with wifi. As soon as I heard about this, I ordered a handset and have been playing with it.

When I'm at the radio station and connected to wifi, there's a message right on my phone's that says "online wifi calling enabled." So if I place call, it will go through like a VoIP service. (Wifi does particularly well in buildings versus cellular signals.) Yet when I'm in my car away from wifi, it will go over Sprint's cellular network.

A few years ago, I talked about a Forbes  cover story predicting that in a few short years you would pay $10 per month for unlimited service and it could actually be profitable for wireless carriers! That's such a different attitude than AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have when they talk about shortages, data rationing and price increases.

More recently, a few months ago I told you about how Metro PCS was putting some 20% of all customer cell activity on to wifi -- not on a cellular network -- in a seamless way to free up capacity and save money.

Will Republic be the next generation game-changer that inherits this legacy? They're a part of the future, but who knows if this exact company will survive.

This much I do know: What you'll pay for cell service is getting cheaper and cheaper. It's yet another reason why locking yourself into a 24-month contract as technology advances really stinks!

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