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Cheapskate Alert: Republic Wireless’ $19 Unlimited Data, Talk & Text

by Adriana Lee | November 2, 2011November 2, 2011 7:00 pm PST

Which is better — a cell phone plan so cheap that it’s practically free, or an awesome selection of handsets? This is the choice before us now, thanks to Republic Wireless. According to PC World, this new start-up (upstart?) provider will be offering unlimited data, talk and texting for the “holy smokes, dinner costs more than that” fee of just $19 per month, starting from next week. And get this — there’s no contract and no early termination fees either.

How are they doing it? Well, it’s UMA, or Unlicensed Mobile Access services. Basically, that’s a fancy term meaning users’ handsets could switch off from a primary WiFi connection to cellular, whenever the former isn’t available. Transitions are typically seamless, with most people not even knowing it’s taking place. (In this case, Republic’s back-up cellular network would be Sprint.) And this makes sense, considering Republic is a division of

But is it some wacky scheme? Well, established carriers have actually made use of UMA, including AT&T and T-Mobile. Then again, back a few years ago, Zero1 also seemed too good to be true… and well, it was.

Aside from the risk, there’s also another catch: This type of service doesn’t just work on any device. It has to be a phone that supports UMA. And Republic asserts that its service is being custom-built from the ground up, so it requires a “special” handset running a customized version of Android. Specifics on the handset (including price) haven’t been disclosed yet. But considering this is a no-contract deal, it’s not unreasonable to think that the hardware cost will be unsubsidized, i.e. full retail price. Still, given all the savings from the monthly cost, this would still work out in the subscriber’s favor.

What do you think? Does the idea of joining Republic Wireless intrigue you? Frighten you? Or are you too much of a smartphone snob to begin with, to even consider it? Weigh in.

[via PC World]

Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...