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Republic Wireless Revamps Its WiFi Handoff

Sarah Thomas
11/12/2013
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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

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Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/13/2013 | 11:35:22 AM
Re: Voice quality?
Voice quality of the legacy service is OK at best, but fine considering the price -- basically what I was paying without data for AT&T "dumb" phone.

 

I use the older Motorola/Republic phone primarily as a phone. Most of the "smart" usage using MS Office type apps also involve the use of foldable Bluetooth keyboard. Small screen makes on-screen keyboard difficult to use. But again, I don't use it that much, so paying the additonal monthly rates for an iPhone or Samsung device would not have been worth it, in my opinion.
MarkC73
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MarkC73,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/13/2013 | 5:53:10 AM
Re: Good deal
VoIP over Wifi is something I used before with decent quality, but not while moving in and out of range.  That's pretty good if they've got 70% traffic over Wifi and decent switchover times.  Admittedly, I've turned off Wifi calling because Tmo doesn't credit my minutes if I do so I didn't want to bother.  Although Republic doesn't do activations where I am, it looks like you have to buy one of their 2 phones, which is I guess is understandable if they've got some proprietary things going on.  Their plans are pretty cheap as well. 
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
11/12/2013 | 6:20:51 PM
Voice quality?
I'm curious about voice quality  -- anyone have experience to share?
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
11/12/2013 | 3:30:38 PM
Good deal
Anyone using Republic Wireless? The fact that it's so cheap has got to appeal to a lot of people, especially the more stationary mobile users. You're putting a lot of trust in the WiFi user experience. But, if you're a Sprint customer considering the Moto X, I imagine you'd have to consider Republic Wireless. The deal is too good to ignore.
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