By Stephen Schenck | November 2, 2011 11:12 PM
T-Mobile users already know a thing or two about making phone calls over WiFi, using those resources to both decrease demand on the carrier’s cellular network, and stay connected even where cell signals don’t penetrate. For T-Mobile, the function seems almost like an afterthought, but what if a carrier based its whole business model around VoIP-over-WiFi? Republic Wireless is planning on doing just that, announcing plans to start offering service over a hybrid of WiFi and 3G connections for a very low price.
Republic’s idea is to have its phones default to making all connections over WiFi, whenever such a network is available. When there isn’t one, only then will it fall-back to a cellular provider. So far, Sprint has been mentioned, but Republic may seek out other partners it’s not clear if it will only be looking at CDMA providers. For a lot of people, that means that their calls and texts will mostly be going over their home or work WiFi networks. Since you’ll only be using your phone on a cellular connection a fraction of the time, Republic will be able to offer unlimited voice, text, and data for just $19 a month. We know there will be no data cap, but haven’t heard about restrictions on tethering.
The bad news is that you’ll likely need to get a new phone, as Republic says a special hardware/software combination is needed for all this jumping back-and-forth from WiFi to 3G. The phones will be Android-based, but there’s no word on manufacturers or specific models. The tear-down image above is featured on Republic’s site, but it may just be a stock photo. At the price Republic intends to offer service, you can almost definitely forget about about finding a heavily-subsidized model, so we’re probably not talking about very high-end hardware.
Republic will be getting things started on November 8, by which we’ll hopefully learn a little more about its plans for offering service, and more importantly about the smartphones that will be supported.