Update: My husband and I have been using Republic Wireless for over 18 months, and I’m still very happy with the service and the price. We are conscientious about our data usage, but don’t refrain from doing things we need to do, including work, and our total bill fluctuates from $35 to $45 per month for two phones.
I just came back from FinCon, the financial writer’s conference. It is always interesting to see what blogs and companies catch my eye. The big winner this year was Republic Wireless, because it seems like their service could solve several of the unique problems that military families face every day.
Republic Wireless is a cell phone company, and their unique angle is that their service uses available Wi-Fi before it goes to cellular service. As a result, their prices are excellent, with plans starting at just $15 per month. Even better, there are no contracts, and you can change your plan up to twice a month.
In addition to being a great phone for general cell phone usage within the US, there are three situations where I can see Republic Wireless fitting perfectly with a military family’s needs: a service member deployed overseas, a family living OCONUS and wanting a cheap US phone number, and a US phone that will work during trips back home. Heck, Republic Wireless could fit several of these needs at the same time.
While not all places have such luxuries, many deployment locations have readily available Wi-Fi. With a Republic Wireless plan, a service member (or contractor) could keep their US phone and phone number, and be able to use that phone whenever they’re in a Wi-Fi area. For only $15 a month, that would provide unlimited communications to the folks back home, and no waits to use the phones or computers.
We’ve lived overseas for four years this time, and it is always a pain not having a US telephone number. There are other voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) options out there, but none has ever been quite right for our family. I love the idea of having a US phone number on a mobile phone that will work most of the places that I want service: at home, on base, and in certain locations while out of the house. I just don’t want to pay a ton for it.
This has always been an issue for my family. We have old phones, and phone numbers, on military hold with another phone company. I *think* the numbers will still be available when we get back, but I can’t be sure and that company isn’t exactly known for their customer service. On our last few trips to the US, we’ve tried a couple of different options. None have been cheap, none have been convenient, and we’ve had to get a new phone number each time. We purchased a pre-paid phone, which worked OK but required us to go in and start a new account for each trip. One time, we had my sister activate an old phone on her plan. It was swell, but it was really expensive.
With Republic Wireless, I can carry a $15 per month, Wi-Fi plan to use the phone outside the US and then switch to a cellular plan for the times that I am in the US. The overall cost will still be significantly less expensive than activating and deactivating various phones, and it will be ready to go as soon as the plane hits the ground. Plus, I’ll always have the same phone number!
There are three things about Republic Wireless that might be issues for some users: you have to purchase the phone, and you can’t use it for calls to international phone numbers (but you can use it to call US numbers from internationally, using Wi-Fi.)
Because there is no contract to offset the cost of the phone, you have to purchase a phone to start, and it has to be a Republic Wireless phone that has the correct Wi-Fi first technology. You can buy them new from Republic Wireless or used via various used retail outlets such as Swappa. They even have a customer service webpage to help you buy a used phone safely!
I want to make sure I explain the international calling properly: you can use the phone at Wi-Fi enabled locations anywhere in the world, but you can’t make a phone call to a number outside the United States. For this reason, a Republic Wireless phone isn’t going to replace your local mobile phone if you are living (or traveling extensively) overseas. However, it is another great tool to make deployments or living overseas a little easier.
Lastly, you can not activate the phone from overseas. At least, I couldn’t. I had to wait until I was in the US to activate the phone.
I think that I probably scared the Republic Wireless representative at FinCon; I was unnaturally excited about the prospects for how military families could use their service. I will be getting service with them soon, and I’ll tell you all about the process and give you a really thorough review then. In the meantime, see if their product might fill your needs. And if you use one of the links here at KateHorrell.com, you’ll help me to keep the site running!
photo by: Theodore Lee
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