I have a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx on Verizon Wireless sharing a plan with another person which costs me about $75 / month. While the service is good, the plans have only increased in price for even the most basic level of service. Adding to the increases are many new services available from no contract providers following the International model of phone use.
To put it simply, we pay more here in the USA on contract plans with the likes of AT&T and Verizon compared to service in other Countries. A lot more. T-Mobile is breaking that system currently, offering excellent no contract plans and finally improving the pricing model for all. AT&T and Verizon are reacting with new plans that are still off-target in my view.
After doing some research, I’ll put forward the options I found and explain why I went the way I did.
#5 No contract plan from AT&T or Verizon. Expensive ($60) with phones I did no like. ~$120 yearly savings.
#4 T-Mobile no contract plan. Better pricing based on usage, can bring your own phone. Still $50 – 60 per month + a new phone in my situation. T-Mobile coverage is poor compared to Verizon in the areas I travel in (Southwest & Central Virginia). ~$120 – 240 yearly savings.
#3 Ting Wireless. Wonderful plan in which you use exactly what you need. I should end up right around $44 per month + phone cost. Phones are expensive directly but you can bring your own CDMA device. What stopped me is the network methodology. The primary network is Sprint on which data is available. The secondary is network is Verizon on which data is NOT available. Spring coverage is very poor at home, work and where I travel and I use mobile data often. ~$320 yearly savings.
#2 Straight Talk Wireless. $45 per month + phone cost. Pick your network (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile). Traditional plan, straightforward. Data is tapered around 2 – 2.5GB leading to some complaints. I usually end up near 500MB and was unconcerned about this limitation. This seems like a great option if not for #1. ~$320 yearly savings.
#1 Republic Wireless. $25 on 3G ($40 on 4G) + phone cost. EXPERIMENTAL. We use SIP trunks at work rather than traditional copper lines through Bandwidth.com. These are the same people that run Republic Wireless and the model is the same. They put you on wireless and initiate a SIP based call when and if available. They seamlessly hop between wireless and actual cell. They only offer a couple of phones but I happen to like their choice (MotoX) which they offer at $299 which is an excellent price. This system uses Sprint as a primary provider and Verizon as a secondary provider with data available on both. ~$550 yearly savings.
I am in the trial period and have not switched over my Verizon number yet. If Republic fails to meet my expectations, I will simply go with Straight Talk and select Verizon as the carrier and use my existing phone or the Republic MotoX. Either way, the savings will be significant and I will not be bound to a wireless contract. I am happy with these new options and glad to see this market finally take hold in the USA.
My observations so far with Republic:
- The wireless to cell handoff is quite good. I have tested this on calls many times now with excellent results thus far.
- Wifi calls lead to high levels of buffering such that you can expect 500ms or more before you receive a response from the person you are talking to. This delay makes conversation slightly more akward.
- The system favors being on Wifi which may encourage you to hop onto less secure locations when travelling.
- I have experienced jitter and garbled communication due to two problems. Wireless latency and a problematic service provider (Comcast). Comcast service in my area is poor with excessive jitter, excessive downtime, random connection losses, etc. This means that with my ISP so goes my voice service now that they are tied. In a total disconnect, the phone will hop to a cell tower. (I think, I am not made fully aware while talking)
- It so happens that I am in a zone with a weak Sprint tower and an excellent Verizon tower. As this system heavily favors the Sprint network, my situation is a worst case scenario when Comcast starts to fail. My phone call has to bounce to Sprint then hopefully Verizon. The phone will sometimes hold onto a poor Sprint tower before successfully moving to a Verizon tower. (I think, I am not made fully aware while talking)
- From experience with our office phones, I can say that Bandwidth.com SIP trunking has it’s own periodic issues. With this system you are reliant on your ISP and Bandwith/Republic or your traditional cell carrier depending on whether you are on Wifi or not.
- I plan to move my verizon number and if this doesn’t work just unlock the MotoX or use my older Razr MAXX with Straight Talk on Verizon.
- Here is a complete list of Caveats for this system: http://republic-wireless.wikia.com/wiki/The_Complete_List_of_Caveats
I plan to update this Republic Wireless review as I use the service going forward.
Update: I had garbled calls and calls I had to abandon on my work and home Wifi networks. I also had several times where I was in a full coverage Verizon area and Republic would hold onto the Sprint tower AT ALL COSTS. So, if I just wanted to look something up or check my email I would have to wait through several minutes of connection failures before the service would hop to the Verizon tower if at all. If not for these two significant issues, I would have kept Republic. As it is, I sent the phone back for a refund. I also did not like the ~1 second buffer that made it hard to hold a flowing conversation with someone when on Wifi. I should also note that the MotoX is a wonderful phone and it was only the service which posed a problem.
Second update: I have two co-workers who are using Republic and have been happy with the service but are more willing to deal with some of the little idiosyncrasies than I. One has a MotoG and the other a MotoX.