Republic Wireless CEO David Morken will announce the official launch of its new smartphone today at the Internet Summit.

The launch announcement will come during the 8:30 a.m. session, where Morken had already been scheduled to address attendees of the technology event at the Raleigh Convention Center.

But before the official launch, Raleigh-based Republic threw a party. About 500 people showed up at the Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh Thursday night for the launch celebration of the new Republic phone, the Motorola Moto X.

The guest list included attendees of the Internet Summit along with invited friends Republic Wireless and representatives from Motorola.

But the guest of honor for the night wasn’t Morken. It was recording artist and Grammy winner Coolio.

While the banners and signs in the CAM made it clear that the party was a Republic event, the dim lights and loud music gave the museum the feel of a nightclub. Servers walked through the crowd with hors d’oeuvres. By 9 p.m., dancers in gold dresses were taking their place dancing throughout the venue.

At about 10:15 p.m., Coolio finally took the stage to loud and raucous applause.

Morken didn’t formally address the CAM Raleigh crowd but he took a few minutes to talk with WRALTechWire. The launch of the Moto X is the culmination of 18 months of work, he said.

“Tonight is about celebrating the efforts of the team,” Morken said.

Republic’s wireless service takes advantage of widely available Wi-Fi networks in homes and workplaces. The service is designed to operate primarily on Wi-Fi with Sprint’s cellular network serving as backup when Wi-Fi is unavailable. Republic originally launched its service on the Motorola Defy XT smartphone for $19 a month, a steep discount compared to what typical smartphone plans cost. Republic’s prices are low because phones operate primarily on Wi-Fi networks.

The Moto X launch will satisfy consumers who are attracted to the Republic service but want a higher end phone. Republic is selling the Moto X for $299. Customers will also have more plan choices. Users willing to use the service on Wi-Fi only can get unlimited talk, text and data for just $5 a month. Unlimited talk and text on Wi-Fi and cellular and unlimited data on Wi-Fi costs $10 per month. For $25 per month, users can get unlimited talk, text and data on Wi-Fi plus 3G cellular. At $40 per month, users get unlimited talk, text and data on Wi-Fi, plus 4G cellular.

Morken already has his Moto X and he gladly displayed it. But if CAM Raleigh has Wi-Fi, Morken’s phone wasn’t on it. In the museum, Morken’s phone showed it was on the Sprint network. But Morken expressed confidence that Wi-Fi is the future of wireless service. High-end smartphone users already spend 90 percent of their time operating on Wi-Fi networks, Morken said. On average, they’re on cellular networks for about 11 minutes a month.

“Why would you pay $90 a month?” Morken said. “Wi-Fi is becoming primary, cellular is backup.”