Republic Wireless unveiled an interview with GM Brian Dally

first_imgThe mobile market in the United States has been engineered over the past 10-15 years to keep new players from entering the game. Companies that do not already own their own spectrum have the ability to purchase it from the larger companies, but at a price that makes it difficult to be competitive. If someone wants to enter the mobile space as a provider, it would be very difficult to undercut one of the major carriers and begin to sustain a business model that will last. So, when you see a company trying to make a reputation for themselves by announcing $19 per month unlimited service plans it raises more than a couple questions.Fortunately, I was able to talk to Republic Wireless General Manager Brian Dally for a little while, in the hopes that he might help me understand what the company is all about.The ServiceRepublic Wireless was created out of a desire to try and offer a service that was a little different. It seems like every day people spend more time encased in a wireless network than they do without. I have to admit, the times I am not on a WiFi connection are few and far between. So, if there are a lot of people out there who spend so much time connected to a WiFi network, why aren’t we sending text messages or making calls on that network? Android 2.3 includes a native Voice over IP system, all it needs is a good SIP client to take you the rest of the way. Of course, you also need something for when you are not connected to a WiFi network as well.Republic Wireless is a branch of Bandwidth.com. These guys have a little bit of experience in the SIP world. They have provided backbone support for Skype, Google Voice, and many other similar companies. Basically they have more experience than most in providing quality VoIP solutions. For now, they have made an agreement with Sprint to deliver voice and data service when you are not connected to a WiFi network. The thought here, according to Dally, is that users will naturally use more voice and data over a WiFi network than their Sprint network. “It’s obvious that the marketplace is ready” said Dally when asked how their initial wave of customers took to the service.The other interesting thing here is that, even when on Sprint, the service is completely unlimited. When I asked what would happen if a user were to spend and entire month, or multiple months for that matter, not using the WiFi network at all the response was very clear. “Nothing”. Unlimited is unlimited, according to Dally. Users will need to connect to a WiFi network when they first activate the device, but are otherwise not required to use either network for a specific amount of time. Obviously, the hope is that those interested in the service will use it as intended, but for right now there are no limits in place.The PhoneDespite early reports, Republic Wireless does not require special hardware in order to function. The launch device, an LG Optimus S, is the same as any other you would buy. The software on board is a modified version of Android 2.3, designed by Republic Wireless to integrate their SIP service into the existing VoIP setup. The setup is totally software driven, so it will be easy for them to get more devices as the service grows. The version of Android being used, according to Dally, is an in-house baked version of AOSP with some bits from the CyanogenMod 7 ROM baked in. No bloatware, no Carrier IQ, just pure Android. While this is just their first phone, it is an impressive start for the Android fans among us.When I asked the CyanogenMod team about their involvement in Republic Wireless, it was noted strongly that there had been no communication between the CyanogenMod team and Republic Wireless. Dally admits that they got some pretty strong commentary when the phone released about not working with this team, but also commented that “while they havent’d collaborated directly it does not mean they are not interested in working with them in the future.” He continued to note that both he and his team are “big fans” of what the CyanogenMod team have accomplished so far.At the present, it is not clear exactly how much of CyanogenMod is baked into the phone, but a big clue can be found in the lockscreen above, which is a CyanogenMod 7.1 staple.Offering an inexpensive phone on an inexpensive network is sure to grab the attention of many people, but what about those of us that want devices with some teeth? “I am using our launch product as my daily driver, but I get phone envy just like everyone else” said Dally when asked what the future holds. The company is very much interested in new devices, and expects to be working with more powerful Android phones as soon as possible.So, why can’t the CyanogenMod guys just take the Republic Wireless software and put it on everything? “I’d love to completely divorce the device from the network. Comcast doesn’t tell me what OS is on my PC, what apps I install. An app is definitely possible in the future.” says Dally. It’s a refreshing take on devices, and I hope “the future” is much closer than it seems.“It’s a beta, a proof of concept”There’s been some reports of trouble from existing customers. Some users have already had money change hands, but no information about when a phone will be on their doorstep has crossed their Inbox. It’s not been the smoothest start, for all of their well-wishing. “We expected a quiet beta.” Says Dally. The early excitement about the service coupled with insufficient beginning staff caused some problems, and they were resolved as quickly as possible. Dally notes that one of the benefits of working so closely with their parent company, Bandwidth.com, is they can rely on them in this early time for additional manpower. He commented that they are finally matching the pace of the demand coming in for the beta, and doesn’t anticipate further issues.Those words may ring hollow to those who are waiting for their devices still, but there is also something to be said for the risks of participating in a beta release of a product. It seems like these guys are aware that problems need to be addressed before this leaves this proof of concept setup. Time will tell exactly how all of this will unfold, but the possibility for a bright future is there.When asked how many units he had sold so far, Dally refused to comment, but was willing to say that “it’s obvious the marketplace is ready”. Users are, so far, doing exactly what they had hoped when they made the service. “People get the concept, we can see users spending more time on WiFi with these devices”.Final ThoughtsI admit I was more than a little hesitant when I first heard about Republic Wireless. Even if this wasn’t some strange scam, how would they make money? I walked away from my conversation with Brian Dally with a lot more respect for what these guys are doing. More importantly, what could be possible if Republic Wireless is allowed to grow and become a multi-stage carrier. They respect the diversity of devices in the GSM spectrum, not to mention the international audience it could bring them, but they have to take things one day at a time, and they are eager to get there at their pace.I would like to see Republic Wireless work with the CyanogenMod team, mend any fences that may have been broken there. I would like to see more powerful devices on their network, maybe even an app or a way to attach unlocked devices to their network. It’s clear that with these guys the sky is the limit if their audience is telling them what they want, and I have a lot of respect for that.Look for to Geek.com’s review of their Optimus S in the coming weeks.last_img