Friday, December 02, 2011

Republic Wireless turns mobile world upside down

Republic Wireless... heard of them? It's a little company with a big concept.

You may have heard about their $19/month 'unlimited' service offer in the US. This is certainly what's garnering headlines.

But for mobile industry watchers, it's not the price but the approach which is turning the mobile model upside-down.

The concept is that people spend the majority of their time indoors (home, office) and within range of Wi-Fi.

Rather than relying on expense and limited cellular spectrum, Republic 'requires' subscribers to use their service predominately over Wi-Fi. Yes, they offer a 'fall back' to Sprint when out and about, but per their customer service agreement, Republic will cut you off if you use too much of Sprint's network. Wow.

There have been plenty of discussions about turning Wi-Fi into a global, mobile network. Trilogy Partner's CEO John Stanton said he spoke with Steve Jobs in 2006/2007 about creating Apple's own mobile network based on Wi-Fi.

And now Republic has taken such a service to market.

We've known for quite some time that the majority of mobile usage happens indoors. And it's these indoor locations which are most difficult to cover from outdoor macro cell towers. This problem, combined with the compelling rise of smartphones as a constant companion, has fueled the rise of Wi-Fi usage within mobile networks.

What Republic is showing is that a 'mobile service' doesn't need to be exclusive to cellular spectrum or radio towers.

In this case, cellular is a service delivered 'over the top' of Wi-Fi. The implications are profound.

Will Republic succeed? Unlikely. They don't have the brand awareness/marketing firepower to make a dent in the hyper-competitive US mobile market.

But as US operators look to lower costs while trying to address massive data demand, they will quickly realize Wi-Fi is for more than just simple data offload.

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