Republic Wireless launched as something of a novelty five years ago. The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) tapped U.S. carrier Sprint’s cell towers for service, offloaded calls and data to Wi-Fi hot spots whenever possible, and passed the savings on to consumers: Republic’s cheapest plan starts at $15 per month for unlimited Wi-Fi calling and texting.
Since then, the firm has added support for T-Mobile and fleshed out its phone portfolio with top-of-the-line options like Samsung’s Galaxy S7. And now, it’s launching special offers to celebrate its newfound independence from Bandwidth, its former parent company.
The new deals entail both smartphone and plan discounts. Republic Wireless will sell Lenovo’s Moto Z Play for $349 between December 7 and December 12, and Huawei’s Ascend 5W for $129 between December 13 and 19. Both will come with six months of unlimited calls and texts and 1GB of monthly data.
Republic Wireless’s plans aren’t perfect. You can’t bring your own smartphone, for one — you’re stuck choosing from one of the 11 devices in the carrier’s storefront (which include the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Moto X Pure Edition, Moto G, Moto E, Galaxy S6, and Galaxy J3). And this past summer, Republic Wireless stopped issuing refunds for the monthly data its subscribers didn’t use. But those caveats don’t appear to have impacted the carrier’s success: it claims to generate more than $100 million in revenue annually.
That’s likely thanks to Republic Wireless’s low-cost plans, which present an affordable alternative to postpaid offerings from incumbents like Verizon and AT&T. Republic Wireless’s $15-a-month option includes unlimited talk, text, and Wi-Fi data. AT&T’s least expensive equivalent starts at $45 a month. Republic Wireless also offers top-tier plans, which start at $90 a month, and include unlimited talk, text, and Wi-Fi data, and 10GB of cellular data.
“The past five years have been an incredible ride as we’ve worked hard to save our customers tens of millions of dollars off their cell phone bills,” said Republic CEO Chris Chaung in a press release. “However, the best days are still ahead of us. With this extraordinarily talented [staff] and all the benefits this spin-off provides, we will accelerate our mission to provide remarkably simple and affordable ways for people to stay in touch.”
As part of the spin-off, Republic Wireless will receive a $30 million cash infusion from Bandwidth, a Cary, North Carolina-based VoIP and broadband service provider. Its headquarters will remain in its location on North Carolina State University’s campus in Raleigh.
The MVNO market has seen substantial growth in recent years. US Mobile, an MVNO founded in the beginning of this year, expects to grow from an initial 20,000 subscribers to 100,000 by the end of this year, representing an annual growth rate of 30 percent. TracFone, another MVNO, added more customers in June 2016 than in any other month in the last two years. And according to a study by Transparency Market Research, the MVNO sector is expected to generate as much as $75.25 billion in revenue by 2023.