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Republic Wireless to offer $19 monthly unlimited service

Republic Wireless, a new MVNO operating on the Sprint network, plans to make a splash when it launches next week. Like many other MVNOs, they’ll offer monthly unlimited talk, text, and data services. Their edge: a price that no one currently approaches. They’ll charge just $19 for the service, effectively cutting in half the current best plans on the market. We’ve seen this before, of course, so it’s natural to question whether Republic Wireless will take the market by storm or it will bust.

The last time we heard about an MVNO undercutting the market was Zer01. When they announced their service, unlimited everything for $70, it was a cutting edge offer. Of course, that was two and a half years ago; today a $70 unlimited plan is on the high end of the prepaid market. But at the time it seemed revolutionary. Laptop Magazine even gave it best in show at CTIA 2009. Of course, Zer01 ended up going bust before launching.
How is Republic Wireless going to offer service so much cheaper than other carriers and MVNOs? They’re going to use WiFi networks whenever possible. This will require a special Android handset, the price of which is of yet undisclosed. Normally unsubsidized Android handsets will cost at least $100, and the idea of a special handset makes it seem like it will cost even more. But given the budget nature of the plan, it’s possible that Republic does provide some subsidy, hoping that customers stick around for long enough to justify the cost.
(On the other hand, it’s unlikely that they’re making enough profit off each month’s service that they could even afford to subsidize handsets. It’s very possible that this service will require a relatively high up-front cost.)
Even with the cheap monthly price, Republic will impose no bandwidth limits. This is possible largely because of the WiFi hand-off, but it’s still a significant offering. Customers will still use Sprint’s 3G data network when no WiFi is available, and there are certainly areas where WiFi won’t be available for miles. It’s unclear what happens if a customer uses an excessive amount of 3G data.
Republic plans to launch the service on November 8th, so we’ll soon find out how reliable they will be. If this works out, they could see a boom in business heading into the holiday season.
Via GigaOm.