Raleigh-based Republic adds cellular network, new phones

Republic Wireless, the Raleigh-based provider of low-cost mobile phone service, has added a new cellular network partner and is expanding its lineup of phones to include Samsung and other manufacturers.

Having a second nationwide cellular network in addition to long-time partner Sprint will improve coverage for customers, said spokeswoman Cherie Gary.

“Two networks are always better than one,” Gary said. Republic's hybrid phone service mostly uses Wi-Fi as its primary network with cellular service as a backup.

Gary said the agreement with the new partner prohibits Republic from naming it, but Bloomberg News and other media have identified the partner as T-Mobile.

Up to now Republic, which launched its hybrid phone service in 2011, has only offered phones from Motorola, a Lenovo brand.

But as of July the company is adding four Samsung Galaxy models – the J3, S6, S7 and S7 Edge – as well as Google Nexus models made by Huawei and LG. It’s also adding Motorola’s Moto X Pure Edition.

Cherie said Republic also has re-engineered how its software interacts with new phones in a way that will enable it to avoid the lag time that was previously involved in adapting a phone for its service.

“If Motorola comes out with a new phone next Wednesday, we’ll be able to offer it and sell it on Thursday,” she said.

Republic is a division of Bandwidth, a privately held company headquartered in Raleigh with nearly 500 employees. The company doesn’t disclose how many subscribers Republic has but reported that the division generated $103 million in revenue over the past 12 months.

In addition, Gary said, Republic posted its first profitable month ever in April.

Republic also plans to introduce new pricing plans to coincide with the launch of the new cellular network and the new phones.

One of those plans, the company said, will offer 1 gigabyte of data, plus unlimited talk and texting, for $20 per month. That undercuts comparable plans offered by major carriers such as Verizon, which offers 1 gigabyte of data for $30, and AT&T, which has a 300 megabyte plan for $20, according to Bloomberg News.

Today, Republic offers 1 gigabyte of data for $25 a month, but customers receive a refund for the data they don’t use. The average monthly refund is $8, according to the company’s website.

Republic launched its plans that offer refunds for unused data last July following an extensive beta test with nearly 2,000 customers. However, Gary said the company is weighing whether to continue offering such plans.

“Republic refund plans have been a really interesting experiment,” Gary said. “While some people got it, a lot of the customers ... want a standard charge every month. Their feedback was that it was too complex to understand.”

If the refund plans are discarded, however, customers currently on such plans will be able to keep them, Gary said.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii