Distributed wireless company REALLY strikes deal with T-Mobile

The distributed wireless company REALLY has struck a wholesale relationship with T-Mobile.

REALLY enables individuals and businesses to "host" small cell radios on their roofs or balconies. And it plans to launch a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) service, called REALLY Wireless, which will ride on T-Mobile‘s 5G network.

In anticipation of its launch, REALLY has begun deployment of its decentralized wireless mobile network in Austin, Texas. The company says wireless subscribers will be able to use their existing phones or buy a new phone to communicate, using both T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network and REALLY's network.

REALLY was founded in 2022 by its CEO Adam Lyons, an executive who initially made his fortune creating TheZebra.com, an auto insurance comparison site. In March REALLY raised $18 million in a seed round. REALLY Wireless also hosts a wireless comparison platform for consumers to compare wireless offerings across 50 carriers.

Speaking with Fierce Wireless today, Lyons said REALLY currently has about 20% population coverage in Austin with its distributed network. It aims to double that coverage by the end of this year. Of course, with access to T-Mobile’s network, it will have nationwide coverage at launch.

It’s also targeting to officially launch its MVNO service by year-end. “We’re in beta on our own network,” said Lyons.

In terms of its own distributed network, REALLY makes it easy for hosts to participate because it handles all the equipment installation, rather than making it a do-it-yourself process for the hosts.

Lyons said REALLY does a site survey of potential hosts, with the help of drones, to make sure the site is within its RF planning  and design footprint. “We have full time installers,” said Lyons. “It takes a couple of hours to make sure the radio is set properly and everything. We’re very focused on simplicity and ease of use.”

When distributed wireless networks first became a trend, cell hosts were typically paid with crypto currency. But since crypto has dropped so much in value, REALLY is paying in U.S. dollars.

“We usually have a straight-forward deal with the hosts where they agree to provide their internet connection and real estate, and they get a set fee every month,” said Lyons. For residential hosts that set fee is about $50 per month and can be more for business hosts.

The company has been marketing itself to potential cell hosts through grass-roots marketing tactics like attending local events, and it also does digital marketing and advertising.

Dan Thygesen, senior vice president of T-Mobile Wholesale, said, "T-Mobile is thrilled to collaborate with REALLY Wireless, embracing innovation that creates accretive value proposition within new technologies. What they're building is distinctive, and we're proud to offer our leading nationwide 5G network to further their mission to help communities access the sharing economy.”

This deal with REALLY is the second wholesale deal that T-Mobile has struck with a distributed wireless operator. About a year ago, T-Mobile signed a 5-year agreement with Nova Labs for the launch of a Helium Mobile commercial service that uses T-Mobile’s cellular network and Nova Labs’ CBRS network.

In general, MVNO activity is accelerating in the U.S. The big wireless providers are already wholesaling their networks to the top cable operators, including Comcast, Charter and Cox, as well as to many smaller MVNOs. And now, there's this potential trend to also wholesale their networks to distributed wireless MVNOs such as REALLY Wireless.