updated 11:00 pm EDT, Mon April 16, 2012
Unsuccessful buyers will be first, e-mail signups
Republic Wireless, a new cell carrier that will be offering at least Android model phones and a $19 unlimited voice, text and 3G data plan, will be adding models and resuming a beta rollout in June, the company announced via a blog post. The carrier will get in touch with customers who were unable to buy phones during the previous beta and those who signed up for e-mail news and assign them in alphabetical "waves" for a potential signup.
The company is doing a slow, limited-participation rollout of its service, which has generated considerable Internet buzz over its all-you-can-eat services and low price. Republic's service is based on the idea that users are generally in Wi-Fi zones most of the time even if they aren't using them, and by employing a UMA system that switches seamlessly between Wi-Fi and Sprint-leased cellular capacity, can reduce its own costs by having its phones rely on Wi-Fi most of the time and cellular ability very little, using VOIP and an iMessage-like Wi-Fi SMS system whenever possible.
The few current users the company has allowed in so far were limited to exactly one particular phone, an LG Optimus running Gingerbread (Android 2.3) which they must buy for $200. Despite its alliance with Sprint, Republic positions itself as a "Robin Hood" company saving users from the expense of "Big Cell." It has recently hinted that new apps for non-customers may also be in the works.
Interested customers who sign up now (or have signed up previously) for notifications about the US-based CDMA carrier will be assigned to a "beta wave" designated by letters of the alphabet, the company says. The e-mails will go out in about a week, and users will have a further week in which to claim their spot. When the opportunity to purchase the phone and plan from Republic becomes available, customers will get a week's advance notice and have a limited time to sign up.
While Republic did not announce any new phone models with this latest announcement, it did specifically say that more model choices were on the way. Due to the high subsidy costs of the top new iPhones, it is unlikely that the company will offer them, though possible that the "budget" 3GS may find its way into the lineup. Most choices are likely to be mid- and low-end Android models, at least at first.
Republic says it will continue to monitor customer feedback and work to improve the UMA switchover response time, as well as push forward on apps for non-Republic customers to help them switch their phones to Republic's VOIP whenever possible, saving cell minutes and potentially allowing customers to take lower-cost plans with their own carriers.