promised, Sprint MVNO Republic Wireless has launched new Republic Refunds plans that give customers account credits for unused data. This is the same approach that Google's Project Fi is using.
There are three Republic Refund plans and they replace both of Republic's current plans with data. Existing users are grandfathered until July 31, 2016 and can keep their current plans until then if they don't want to switch to a Republic Refunds plans.
The new Republic Refunds plans are:
- $17.50/month for unlimited talk, text and 0.5 of 4G data
- $25/month for unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of 4G data
- $40/month for unlimited talk, text and 2 GB of 4G data
All of Republic plans, old and new, include unlimited talk, text and data using WiFi. There are no changes to the two Republic plans listed below that don't include cellular data:
- $5/month for unlimited talk, text and data using Republic's platform on WiFi only
- $10/month for unlimited talk and text but no cellular data
- $25/month for unlimited talk, text and data with the 1st 5 GB of data at 3G speeds (no LTE), and the rest throttled
- $40/month for unlimited talk, text and data with the 1st 5 GB of data at high speeds, including LTE, and the rest throttled.
Republic claims that most users will save money with the new plans. That's certainly true for light users who get unlimited talk and text plus 512 MB of 4G data for $17.50 per month instead of the $40 ($25 for 3G data) they paid with the old plans. However the new plans will be more expensive for anyone using more than 2 GB of 4G data and for users with 3G phones who use more than 1 GB of data.
Republic users do tend to use relatively small amounts of data thanks to the operator's "WiFi-first" approach that routes voice, messaging and data traffic over WiFi whenever possible using Android phones with custom software. Jon Schniepp, Republic's senior vice president of product management told FierceWireless that customers who participated in a trial of the Republic Refunds plans used an average of 400 MB per month at a cost of $14.88 per month. He said that Republic customers currently average 700 MB per month and that 78% of current customers would pay the same or less under the new Refunds plans compared with their current plans.
I know that Republic is going to get lots of complaints from 4G users who consume more than 2 GB per month and 3G customers who use more than 1 GB per month as they will see their bills increase dramatically. Under Republic Refunds, 5 GB of data will cost $85 per month instead of the current $25 (3G) or $40 (4G). There are less expensive options for heavy data users who will likely leave Republic.
Ultimately I think switching from traditional "use it or lose it" data buckets to pay per use data like Republic and Project Fi are doing is a good thing. With use it or lose it, light users were subsidizing heavy users, charging based on actual use is fairer.
However I am disappointed that Republic is charging $15 per GB instead of Project Fi's $10/GB. I can't believe that Sprint charges wholesale customers like Republic anywhere close to $15/GB. On the other hand, Republic is charging $10/month for unlimited voice and messaging compared with $20 for talk and text only on Project Fi.
Overall, Project Fi looks like a better deal than Republic Refund especially as it includes coverage on both T-Mobile and Sprint plus unlimited no extra cost domestic voice, text and 2G data roaming, plus unlimited no-extra cost 256 Kbps international data roaming. Project Fi also encrypts all WiFi traffic, which as far as I know, Republic doesn't. Of course, Project Fi is invite-only and requires a $499.99 Nexus 6 phone. Republic is open to all and phones are cheaper too; $149 for the 3G-only Moto G and $299 for the LTE-capable Moto X.
Sources: Republic Press Release, Republic Community Blog, Republic User Forum
Republic Wireless to Give Customers Refunds For Unused Data
More About Project Fi - What It Is and What it Means
Prepaid Operator Profile: Republic Wireless