MVNO Republic Wireless, which initially targeted the Wi-Fi-first calling space, is now working to expand its offerings with devices and services geared specifically for children getting their first mobile device.
And the company disclosed that it is now recording annual revenues of nearly $100 million.
“We're increasingly focused on serving the communication needs of young families, especially those who are struggling with the ‘first phone’ question for their children,” Republic wrote in response to questions from FierceWireless. “Parents want to be able to remotely communicate with and track their kids, but, don't want to add yet more screen addition to their kids' lives. This makes an old or new smartphone paired with an unlimited plan a poor option.”
Republic said its Relay device, announced late last year and released in May, is designed for this space. The gadget sports LTE and Wi-Fi connections and walkie-talkie services for kids; it costs $99 with $7-per-month services and is geared for children ages 6 to 11.
“And, when they're ready to graduate from the screen-free Relay device to a regular smartphone, Republic Wireless offers affordable high quality smartphones paired with low cost, Wi-Fi-first plans which enable parents to control cellular data usage by setting limits on data and just adding more when needed at only $5/GB,” the company said.
Republic’s new stratagem aligns surprisingly closely with the one abandoned by Republic's fellow MVNO Kajeet in 2017. Kajeet was founded in 2003 and used Sprint’s network to offer kid-friendly services for tweens and teens as well as controls for parents looking to monitor and limit their children’s mobile usage. Kajeet re-entered the news earlier this year with an announcement with Google powering internet services on school buses. Google will use Kajeet services to power the company’s new “Rolling Study Halls” initiative, which will deploy Wi-Fi onto school buses in a dozen states this year as part of Google’s efforts to expand the use of its products in schools.
Republic, for its part, launched services in 2012 targeting the market for low-cost wireless service that leveraged nearby Wi-Fi connections. Other players in that space have included Google’s Project Fi and Scratch Wireless. (Project Fi is still offering service, but Scratch has suffered through problems.)
Interestingly, Republic continues to focus on the Wi-Fi opportunity; the company announced a deal in June with iPass to give its customers access to “millions of Wi-Fi hotspots through iPass’ network nationwide.”
Republic Wireless touts “hundreds of thousands of members nationwide,” although it, like most other MVNOs, does not provide specific customer numbers. The company said it recently launched a "Channel Store" for Relay, where customers can add more features to their Relay such as instant chat channels, music and more. “This is analogous to the app stores on smartphones and we'll be continuing to ramp up the number of channels available on Relay going forward,” the company said.