This Week's Reviews
The Biggest, Cheapest Network of All
Republic Wireless, run by David Morken, offers the Moto X smartphone that offers unlimited calls and texts for $5 per month, $40 if you want unlimited data. To keep its prices low, Republic has not built a wireless network, opting to rent network capacity from Sprint. WiFi is used for all other Republic calls, texts, and data. The carrier does require the upfront purchase of an Android smartphone modified to use a customer’s home or business Wi-Fi network for a phone call. According to Cisco Systems, in 2012, one-third of all data traffic from smartphones passed through a Wi-Fi router, while traffic over cell networks didn’t grow as much as expected.
A smartphone typically uses four gigabytes of data per month; one gigabyte travels over a cellular network, and three gigabytes travel through Wi-Fi. While carriers look for way to monetize the three gigs, consumers look for ways to minimize the cost of the one gig. AT&T has recognized that in some places Wi-Fi isn’t just cheaper for the smartphone holder, it’s cheaper for the carrier.
It is the only U.S. carrier that offers what is referred to as "seamless offloading." When a consumer walks into range, the hotspot recognizes her smartphone, and it immediately logs her on. A shift to Wi-Fi could potentially open the door for companies such as Time Warner and Comcast to enter the wireless market.