Business Briefs

Raleigh's Republic, a David, takes on wireless Goliaths

Posted December 17, 2012 9:10 a.m. EST

— David took on Goliath with a not-so-secret weapon - a slingshot - but stunned the giant with a well-placed stone and then took off the monster's head.

Republic Wireless, whose CEO's first name just so happens to be David, is facing off against telecom Goliaths with a mixture of well-known weapons that its engineering team has turned into a proprietary mix: WiFi and cellular.

So as Raleigh-based Bandwidth takes on incumbent wireless giants Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile with its Republic Wireless network - these "Davids" based at the former Red Hat headquarters located on N.C. State's Centennial Campus shouldn't be underestimated by the Goliaths.

Republic, working with Motorola, developed a special chip set that enables Republic smartphones to shift from WiFi networks to cellular when WiFi isn't available.

By utilizing the speed and affordability of free public WiFi, Republic is promising customers an unlimited text, voice and data plan for $19 a month.

That's one fifth the going rate of many other plans from the Goliaths - and most include caps on data.

Costs is a major reason why Bandwidth developed the Republic technology.

"I have six kids and several years back, I told them that if they got straight A’s, they could have a smartphone as a reward," Bandwidth Chief Executive Officer David Morken, told WRAL News. "A few report cards later, and we were paying astronomical bills for the family’s wireless plan. This was the seed that, fueled with the great ideas and effort of many, formed the basis for republic wireless. We knew there had to be a better way.

"Right now, a typical family of four ends up paying more for cell service than they do for groceries. The cell phone bill is often the second largest expense for a family – after the monthly mortgage. This is outrageous."

Republic hopes to change that cost structure with 50,000 phones expected to ship by Jan. 1 and 350,000 by early next year.

WRAL Tech Wire takes an in-depth look at Republic Wireless - the technology, the strategy and the ambition behind it in three stories: