Republic Wireless, a new provider of voice and data services that utilizes WiFi and wireless networks for a flat fee of under $20, is formally launching the service after a months-long trial and testing dating back more than a year.

So how does the Republic technology work?

The company won’t answer some questions, such as specifics about the chip technology involved in its agreement with Motorola to build the phones used for the service.

“I can’t comment on specific patents, but can say that we continue to add to our intellectual property portfolio,” a company spokesperson says then adds: “The Republic build is ‘proprietary.'”

Chris Chuang, chief operating officer of Bandwidth, the Raleigh-based parent of Republic, recently talked with WRAL Tech Wire about the new service.

Please explain how the technology works in switching between Wi-Fi and cellular. This is done automatically?

The user simply taps a button to move from WiFi to cellular during a call. We continue to refine this process and will ultimately have a solution in place that is seamless – where calls automatically transition from WiFi to cellular without requiring the user to do anything.

Why is Bandwidth convinced this is a good play?

Consumers are flocking to republic because they’re fed up with the status quo. We’ve liberated them from a world of so-called “unlimited” plans from other providers that have caps on data usage, hidden fees, long-term contracts and other restrictions, typically in fine print. WiFi is ubiquitous and cheap. Cellular spectrum, by contrast, is expensive and controlled by the few. Our proprietary Hybrid Calling technology routes everything over WiFi whenever possible and relegates cellular to its proper place – when we are outside of the home, office, or hotspots.

The result is unparalleled consumer freedom and unbeatable value. We’ve set a new bar and we’re ushering in a new era of wireless for millions more people.

What remains to be put in place to support a formal rollout?

We’ve built a foundation that is scalable and sustainable for millions of members. We’ll continue to hire and train employees here in the Triangle across all functions as we refine and further build out our operations.

Why had you paused the beta trial, and for how long?

Over a year ago, a small initial team at republic set out with a big idea to change the way wireless works. We launched an early beta in November last year, and the response was more than we could have ever imagined. Frankly, the demand blew us away – more than 100,000 people registered in the first few hours alone.

As a result, we shifted our thinking from “early beta” to building an operation that could scale to accommodate millions of people.

In relatively short order, we brought together a large team of brilliant engineers, operations experts and support professionals. We built out robust systems designed to scale. We engaged several handset manufacturers in rigorous development and testing cycles in search of the best device for our community. And finally, we enlisted partners to establish our supply chain and fine tune core processes.

How many beta users have you had to this point?


How many do you want for the beta?

We have tens of thousands who claimed a spot in one of our beta waves. Those individuals will be given an opportunity to buy in the coming weeks. There are hundreds of thousands more on our interest list.

What major technology hurdles have you encountered with the service, and how are those being overcome/solved?

Handling this level of scale on a ground-breaking service is never easy. Having such a large beta group, and now expanding it, allows us to discover and address all the edge cases of real life that are hard to simulate or find in the lab. We’re out there ensuring that our call quality and reliability over Wi-Fi is strong. We want handover from Wi-Fi to cellular (and back again) to become seamless and automatic. And of course, we need to ensure we offer a great phone for a great value. This week’s announcement of the Motorola Defy XT checks that big one off the list.

Do you face other competitors in this space?

Our price point of $19 for truly unlimited minutes, texts and data is unmatched. It’s not even close.

Will more phones be added in the future?

We’re evaluating other devices and will likely introduce additional options at some point in the future.

How does data speed compare to 4G LTE?

WiFi data speed in the home is determined by the speed of one’s underlying broadband connection, which tends to be 5-15 mbps for most people here in the US. This is roughly comparable to what most LTE operators claim for their data speeds. At work, WiFi data speeds are determined by the speed of a router. Today’s 802.11n routers run at up to 300 mbps, so twenty times faster. Wi-Fi is everywhere and offers at least equivalent speed in practice, and much higher speeds in increasingly prevalent scenarios.

Does the network support tablets/other devices? Will these be added later?

Today, the network supports two devices – the Motorola DEFY XT and the LG Optimus. We’re evaluating other devices and will likely introduce additional options at some point in the future.

Are you buying cellular airtime in bulk for your users when they are beyond WiFi range?

We have partnered with Sprint for the cellular component of our service when our users are not in range of Wi-Fi.

(The company hopes to ship 50,000 smartphones to customers before Jan. 1, Bandwidth Chief Executive Officer David Morken told WRAL news last week.)


As a result, Republic is offering customers the chance to secure their own global phone number.