Republic Wireless Revamps Its WiFi Handoff
Just over two years into providing its WiFi-first/cellular offload mobile service, the Sprint MVNO Republic Wireless is revamping how it handles offloading.
Ken Grelck, senior vice president of sales for Bandwidth.com , Republic Wireless 's parent company, told us in September that it uses its own patented approach to handoff between cellular and WiFi that moves calls in progress without dropping them. Republic is a Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) MVNO, but it relies on WiFi first with Sprint's CDMA or LTE network as a backup where WiFi, provided by Devicescape Software Inc. , isn't available. (See: Startup Taps Devicescape for Wi-Fi-First Network and Meet the New US Wireless Operators.)
Grelck said that 70 percent of its traffic rides on WiFi, compared with only 30 percent on Sprint's network. (See: Bandwidth Bringing Profits Back to Voice.)
But the handoff process between the networks has been anything but seamless. Republic baked its proprietary hybrid calling technology into the LG Optimus and Moto Defy X, its first handsets on offer, which Grelck said include an operating system that's unique to the MVNO. The technology would start a second call over cellular if the customer dropped out of WiFi range. The company admitted to FierceWireless that this process was painful and caused lag time.
Now, Republic Wireless says it has improved that process. FierceWireless reports that it recruited engineers from Nuance Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NUAN), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Motorola, and other companies to improve the normalization of codecs between WiFi and cellular. Republic claims the handoff is now seamless on WiFi voice calls, thanks to a proprietary and patented "intelligent predictive algorithm" that determines the handset's location, jitter, and packet loss when a call starts to drop on WiFi. Republic Wireless CEO David Morken told FierceWirelss that the call then gets anchored in the cloud and transferred to cellular within milliseconds.
In addition to improving the process, Republic will begin offering the Moto X, its first full-featured smartphone, for $299. It has traditionally offered the phones unsubsidized and contract-free along with a $19 per month rate plan but is adding more options, including a $5 per month plan for unlimited voice, texting, and data only over WiFi or a $10 monthly plan for WiFi-only data plus unlimited voice and texting on WiFi or cellular.
It's also offering two higher-tier plans that differentiate service based on the network. For $25 a month, customers will get unlimited voice, text, and data over WiFi or Sprint's CDMA network, while a plan for $40 per month includes WiFi and LTE coverage. Customers can change their rate plans twice a month, prorating their plan for the rest of the month.
For comparison's sake, the Moto X unlocked from Motorola would cost $599. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Sprint also offer it for a newly reduced price of $99 on contract. AT&T's plans start at $70 per month, and Sprint's start at $50 for talk and text only, or $80 per month for LTE access. (See: AT&T to Offer Build-Your-Own Moto X and Sprint Goes Unlimited With Moto X.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading