Bandwidth.com, a privately held communications and services firm based in Cary, is rolling out a nationwide wireless service that offers unlimited usage for voice and text.

So far, the response has been “overwhelming” with the firm’s original inventory of phones selling out within hours, the company says.

The cost is $19 per month – much less than other unlimited offerings from large national carriers. Bandwidth.com began offering the service last week with what it calls a “limited beta” launch. It is doing so through a subsidiary venture known as Republic Wireless.

Unlike standard cellular service, Republic offers a blend of Wi-Fi (access available in such places as cafes and shopping malls) as well as cellular. If Wi-Fi is not available, phones automatically switch to Sprint’s cellular network. The company calls its offering “hybrid calling.”

To utilize the service, customers can buy from the company an Android-equipped phone for $99 through a special offer as late as Nov. 27. After that the phone will cost $199. More phones will be offered next year, the company says.

“Freedom isn’t free. It’s $19,” the company says.

“Almost immediately you notice what’s missing. The hefty monthly bills, the endless nickel-and-diming, the big red contracts … yes, we can hear you now. Do you hear us? With Republic Wireless, you pay a flat $19 a month for everything. Period.

“How is that possible?

“Republic is a Wi-Fi network. Anything cellular can do, Wi-Fi can do better (and for less). That’s 21st Century technology.”

“Overwhelming Response”

In a blog post about the launch of the service, Republic General Manager Brian Dally said demand has already been “overwhelming.” Republic has already received a considerable amount of media attention, primarily from technology oriented websites but also from The Wall Street Journal.

“As proud as we are of our idea, the intensity of demand for it has been simply overwhelming,” Republic General Manager Brian wrote in a blog about the launch. “We were prepared to serve a fair number of people.

“In a very short time, however, over one million people have visited our website. All of our original inventory was sold out in four short hours, then the additional amount we were able to locate in another four!”

Dally noted that demand put a strain on the company’s responses with problems ranging from lack of email confirmations to billing amounts.

“The crush of your demand has kicked us into overdrive,” he added. “We have quickly hired additional staff and worked around the clock to handle your emails and phone calls, and to interact with you online. All the while, the team members trained to fix problems have been listening to and getting to the bottom of every problem that arose during those frenetic post-launch hours.”

After receiving some criticism about the launch, Dally noted:

“Problems are really just opportunities to excel. The sheer volume of response we face, however, limits how fast our experts can resolve them all. We are not in over our heads, as one Facebook commenter averred. We are just a limited number of human beings, with a limited number of waking hours, facing some rather unexpected problems directly related to the sensational volume of your demand.

“It turns out our idea is bigger than we are. It takes time for a business to catch up with a reality like that. That doesn’t mean that we’re incompetent, or that you get what you pay for. We have much higher standards for Republic Wireless than that. Our team is amazing. I’m proud to work alongside them.”

All customers who have placed orders for phones should receive them by early January, Dally said. The company also offers a refund policy.

“We’re a new company, with new technology. We will get it right, if not out of the gate, then soon after,” he wrote.

$100 Million Company

Bandwidth.com expects to top $100 million in revenue this year. According to the company, it is now the sixth largest provider of phone number-based services in the U.S.

The company raised $22 million in venture funding earlier this year from Carmichael Partners, which is led by former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

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