While you might not have heard of them, Republic Wireless has been making waves with their unique “Wi-Fi first” approach to mobile phones for more than five years. As of late 2014, their CEO claims they have “several hundred thousand” subscribers.
Plans start at $15 per month for unlimited text and voice but no data. The most expensive plan at the time of writing is $90. They do not offer pay-as-you-go or prepaid service.
Even if you already have a phone, unless it’s brand new, there’s a good chance you’ll need a new one to use their service. Republic Wireless’ supported phone list is small. However, the carrier added GSM access through T-Mobile’s network in early 2016, so supported devices might improve over time.
Adaptive Coverage: This is the biggest difference between this carrier and most others. If your phone sees an available Wi-Fi connection, it will use that connection to stream calls instead of mobile data. Instead of relying on a mobile network to provide signal, you can tap into your existing Wi-Fi network for improved coverage. They claim this offers improved clarity and better coverage in areas where mobile signals are often weak--such as indoors or in rural areas.
Bonded Calling: If you cross between mobile coverage and Wi-Fi, or your in-home Wi-Fi connection is running too slow to support calls, your phone will seamlessly transition the call to the fastest network possible. This means less dropped calls.
Worry-Free Travel: While you won’t have signal on mobile networks in other countries, you can place calls with no additional fees anywhere you find Wi-Fi service.
Awards and Recognitions
According to The News & Observer, they topped the Consumer Reports’ rankings for prepaid cellphone providers and received highest marks for value in 2014.
How's the Network Coverage and Speed?
Determining network coverage and speeds is tricky with this carrier as it functions more like a VOIP provider than a mobile carrier. If you’re within Wi-Fi range, your speeds and stability will depend on the network.
Outside Wi-Fi range, coverage will depend on the mobile network your phone supports. Republic Wireless is one of the few carriers to offer both CDMA and GSM service. CDMA coverage works with Sprint’s network while GSM uses T-Mobile’s network.
Data from OpenSignal breaks down their CDMA network types as follows:
- 72% LTE (4G)
- 18% eHRPD (3G)
- 10% EVDO Rev. A (3G)
The same data breaks down their GSM network types as follows:
- 68% LTE (4G)
- 23% HSPA+ (4G)
- 5% HSPA (3G)
- 5% UMTS (3G)
NOTE: At the time of writing, they do not offer service in Alaska, New Hampshire or Hawaii.
You can check coverage and network types in your area using their GSM and CDMA coverage maps.
As with coverage, the speeds you should expect will differ between CDMA and GSM networks. Data from OpenSignal, PC Magazine and Ookla all indicate that you’ll find far better speeds on the GSM network. However, your best option is to find someone in your area on either Sprint or T-Mobile and ask them about their speeds.
Speed summaries from OpenSignal’s crowdsourced CDMA and GSM data show speeds as follows:
- CDMA 4G Download Speed: 6.3Mbits per second
- CDMA 4G Upload Speed: 3.4Mbits per second
- CDMA 3G Download Speed: 0.5Mbits per second
- CDMA 3G Upload Speed: 0.6Mbits per second
- GSM 4G Download Speed: 11.2Mbits per second
- GSM 4G Upload Speed: 7.3Mbits per second
- GSM 3G Download Speed: 2.4Mbits per second
- GSM 3G Upload Speed: 0.7Mbits per second
Results improve when looking at PC Magazine’s 2016 “Fastest Mobile Networks” study:
- CDMA 4G Download Speed: 20.58Mbits per second
- CDMA 4G Upload Speed: 6.90Mbits per second
- GSM 4G Download Speed: 19.88Mbits per second
- GSM 4G Upload Speed: 18.02Mbits per second
- GSM 3G Download Speed: 7.18Mbits per second
- GSM 3G Upload Speed: 1.72Mbits per second
Note: The study did not test 3G CDMA speeds
Ookla’s “Speedtest Market Report” shows CDMA 4G download and upload speeds as 15.04Mbits per second and 4.70Mbits per second respectively. GSM 4G speeds clock in significantly faster at 21.02Mbits per second for downloads and 11.59Mbits per second uploading. The GSM download speeds were the second highest found in their report. 3G speeds were not tested on either network for this study.
Do They Charge Roaming Fees?
No! If you have coverage, you can call without worry!
Planning to travel? You can use your phone abroad anywhere you have Wi-Fi access without accruing roaming fees.
Unfortunately, this means that international usage is not possible over mobile networks.
What About Long Distance Fees?
All calls to numbers in the U.S. and Canada are local! Looking to call other destinations? They have a small list of per-call destinations available with an additional per-minute fee.
Wording on the site about the exact fee is vague, with the carrier saying:
“In addition, you can make outbound cellular calls to Per Call Countries/Territories. Per Call Countries/Territories include Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Johnston Atoll, Midway Atoll, and the Wake Island. Republic currently includes outbound calls to Per Call Countries/Territories as part of our monthly calling plans but reserves the right to charge up to $0.50 per minute.”
Before you place a lengthy call to these destinations, it might be best to talk with customer support.
If you’re looking to call other countries, you’ll need an international calling card from a third party provider. While this might seem like a problem, it works out well for callers who don’t mind shopping around for a good deal!
You can find more about specific calling rates and options on the My Republic Service page.
Can I Tether My Phone?
Yes! Tethering is supported on any device with Android Lollipop 5.0 or higher. Data used will count toward your monthly allotment. Remember, when tethering with a PC, laptop or gaming console you might see increased usage as these devices don’t optimize data usage for mobile networks.
Can I Rollover Unused Data?
No. Data rollover is not offered nor has it ever been available through this carrier.
What Add-ons or Bundles are Available?
All plans include voicemail, call waiting and caller ID. At the time of writing, no add-ons or bundles are available to expand features or service offerings.
Can I Bring My Own Device?
Yes, however the supported list of devices is limited. This is due to a requirement in their software for Android 6.0 Marshmallow. As this operating system becomes common, the list of devices compatible with Republic Wireless should increase significantly.
You will find a list of available models and a compatibility checking tool on their Bring Your Own Device page.
Do They Require a Credit Check?
There are no credit checks required to establish service. However, you must pay your bill using a debit or credit card.
For device financing, they partner with Affirm. Device financing does require a credit check. However, this is a "soft" check--meaning it shouldn't impact your credit rating.
To run the credit check, Affirm will need:
- Your name
- Current address
In some cases, a government-issued ID--such as a Driver's License, State Identification Card or Passport--is required as well.
NOTE: Credit checks from carriers that pull your credit bureau report may impact your credit score. If you're not sure the best options for your credit profile, we suggest contacting the carrier directly before attempting to obtain service.
For more information on Affirm credit check requirements and how they might affect your account, consult Affirm's FAQ page.
Do They Charge an Early Termination Fee?
There are no term commitments on mobile service. Device financing at this carrier is handled by a third-party. At the time of writing, this company is Affirm. In their FAQ, they state:
“Affirm loans vary between 10% and 30% APR simple interest (0% APR is offered at select merchants). The corresponding finance charge is the only fee associated with an Affirm loan - we don’t charge late fees, service fees, prepayment fees, or any other hidden fees. We strive always to be more transparent and fair than any other form of financing.”
However, as this is considered a loan, early termination without paying the rest of your phone balance will likely result in credit concerns. We recommend calling customer service to discuss options and concerns if you are using a financed device.
Can I Port My Number To or From Republic Wireless?
Yes! However, as the carrier is considered a VOIP company instead of a mobile carrier, porting your number out of Republic Wireless may take up to 7 business days.
If you’re eligible for a number transfer, you will need:
- An active account where the number is currently assigned
- The name of the account holder
- The billing address associated with the account
- The PIN or security password associated with the account
With the differences in how this carrier operates, porting numbers into their service can be tricky. Your best option for confirming transfer availability is to use their Number Transfer Checker.
Will They Unlock My Phone?
Republic Wireless works by using customized software. This means they don’t need to lock your phone to their network. All phones purchased through their store are already unlocked. If you’re trying to bring a locked phone to their service, contact the carrier to which the phone is locked for options.
For additional questions about pricing, features and coverage, be sure to check our Republic Wireless Q&A Forum. It’s filled with questions and answers from people like you looking to get the most out of their mobile service!
If you spot any errors or missing information, please let us know! It's appreciated and will help make this page better for everyone.