Republic Wireless adds GSM carrier and expands handset lineup to include Samsung, Huawei phones

Republic Wireless customers will soon have another cellular option to fall back on when Wi-Fi isn't available.

The MVNO, which launched with Sprint five years ago, said this morning it has added an unnamed nationwide GSM service provider "with the fastest nationwide 4G LTE network." T-Mobile is most likely Republic's new carrier partner, which means Republic will be able to start selling its services into the rural and suburban markets into which T-Mobile is expanding.

Republic also announced plans to add six Android handsets to its portfolio starting in July, including Samsung's latest flagship, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. Other additions include the Nexus 6P by Huawei, the Nexus 5X by LG, the Moto X Pure Edition, the Samsung Galaxy J3 and the Galaxy S6.

The new handsets on Republic's service are notable considering the company previously only offered service on a pair of low-end Motorola phones (Republic's calling technology requires specialized software on users' phones). Further, Republic's lineup is now broader than the lineup available on Google's Project Fi MVNO, which also offers Wi-Fi calling services. Project Fi currently only works on the Nexus 6P and 5X.

The new phones will all launch with the new carrier. A Republic representative said the because the solution is SIM-based, Sprint is "working on a few minor details" and plans to offer Sprint service on those handsets as soon as possible.

Republic said it continues to test and certify additional handset models that can leverage its Adaptive Coverage, which uses Bonded Calling technology to improve the quality of Wi-Fi calls. The technology essentially serves as a kind of patch that intelligently senses sub-optimal conditions on a Wi-Fi network and responds by patching the gaps in a Wi-Fi call with redundancy on a cell data network. The technology reduces the need to fall back to the cellular circuit-switched voice network. Republic has reported seeing a 75 percent reduction in help tickets related to Wi-Fi call quality since Bonded Calling started working on its phones.

"Our vision has always been to make our remarkably affordable and fair services available to the vast majority of the Android market," said Chris Chuang, Republic's chief operating officer, in a press release. "However, as in any new technology approach, innovation often comes with a few compromises; and in the case of our hybrid Wi-Fi calling, it was a limited selection of devices and cellular network. Thanks to some key breakthroughs in our Adaptive Coverage technology and the addition of a GSM carrier partner, our vision will become a reality as we remove these limitations so we can serve many more customers."

Finally, the company said it will add new pricing plans to accompany the expanded handset lineup and additional network. Republic didn't disclose detailed pricing plans, but said a $20-a-month offering will include unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of LTE data.

Republic Wireless doesn't disclose customer figures but appears to have gained gradual ground over the last few years as an affordable alternative to traditional cellular services. The company is one of several Wi-Fi-first players that could eventually prove disruptive for major U.S. mobile network operators.

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