back to article Truly unlimited mobile for $19: How can it be true?

Next year Americans will be able to get unlimited mobile calling, and data, for $19 a month with Republic Wireless, in a deal which is nearly, but not quite, perfect. Republic Wireless achieves its remarkable pricing by offloading as much traffic as possible, voice and data, onto wi-fi networks. But not its own wi-fi networks …


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  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    the requirement to pay a termination fee on every call


    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Terminatyion fee explained

      If you are an O2 customer, and you call someone on a Vodafone line, O2 has to pay Vodafone some money to connect the call. This payment is called a termination fee.

  2. Ian Yates


    So, the usual not-unlimited definition of "unlimited" that all telcoms seem to know

    1. gafisher

      Completely and unequivocally unlimited until you reach your limit.

      (Actually, "unlimited" via WiFi; only the cellular connections are limited, and then (according to Republic Wireless) only loosely.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 things

    Free WiFi networks trade access for the chance to display a marketing message, so there'll be an arms race to defeat this

    I don't mind being blissfully unaware of my free data usage, so long as I'm kept very aware of my billed usage

  4. PaulR79

    Battery life - will it suffer with WiFi presumably being enabled 24/7?

    I'd be interested to see how battery life is affected from this scenario since I'm sure I've read somewhere before that a phone switching between signals and constantly searching for a stronger signal (in low signal areas only?) uses more than conservative use of WiFi. Either way I'll be curious to see how the switching between networks is handled during calls. Will it drop the call during the switch?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I generally find my battery goes down faster when the wifi isn't left on all the time, just because 3g is so battery-hungry when it's transferring data, so the more of it gets dumped onto any wifi that I'm near the better

    2. gafisher

      Presumably the phones won't try to connect to WiFi unless WiFi is detected, which can be done in a very low-power manner (think of those keychain WiFi detectors).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Illegal in the UK?

    "any wireless internet connection it can latch into for free will do"

    Doesn't RIPA make any unauthorised connection, even if the wi-fi has been carelessly left unsecured, an offence?

  6. Steven Jones

    Potential Offence

    If this device can latch onto any unprotected WiFi network there is a very real possibility that the owner might be deemed to have committed an offence in the UK. This story from El Reg in 2008.

    1. The Mole

      Owner not liable?

      In this case the owner can probably get away with it and it would instead by the handset manufacturer who would be liable. They are selling this as totally seamless with no owner knowledge or control of the interaction - unlike wifi squatting where it is user initiated/controllable.

      The manufacturer on the other hand are controlling the interaction with their DNS hack and so would be the ones attempting to circumvent access restrictions.

      Of course this all depends on the quality of the lawyers doing the arguing.

  7. JeffyPooh

    Consumers' mindset...

    ...will be to park themselves in a location with zero Wifi and start watching HD videos. Consumers love to spank big companies.

    1. Alex Rose


      Read the article again.

    2. talz 13

      Well, then they'll just get spanked back by losing their $19.99/month cell plan and have to go back to the $50+ plan that they had before.

  8. Lamont Cranston

    I can see this going down a storm

    with anyone running a Wi-Fi hotspot.

  9. Ramazan

    US operators hold you americans for idiots. 1.5GBytes of GPRS data cost me $10 here (actually $5 with all subsidizing), and it's prepaid GSM, no stinky contracts etc.

    1. ian 22

      Not disputing

      While it may very well be true that US operators hold Americans for idiots, conditions (geographical and economical) may also account for some of the differences between European and US costs. European cities are more compact and so require fewer cells. European cities are less geographically dispersed, requiring less long-distance equipment.

      All guess work, of course. What are the business cost differences between Europe and the USA?

  10. John Robson Silver badge

    DNS based VPN?

    If DNS requests get through then you have a data pinhole, and therefore a VPN could be established...

    1. Eddie Edwards
      Thumb Up

      I was thinking that

      For a minute there I thought the story was going to be that this is how the phone works.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      DNS Based VPN?

      Only if the outbound DNS request can be made to ANY server. If the DNS servers are tied down to the ISP servers that are used by the hotspot, this goes out of the Window.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      IP over DNS

      It's been done; do a search for NSTX, for example. There's an old HOWTO document that explains specifically how it can be used when the WiFi connection only lets you make DNS requests to a single server; the restricted connection does not have to let you make DNS queries to arbitrary servers, as long as you control the DNS for a domain.

      If the restricted connection lets you send arbitrary UDP packets to port 53 (DNS) at any address - ie they don't force you to use their DNS server - then setting up a tunnel is pretty trivial, of course, using CIPE or something similar. If you don't need full IP, you could do this at the application level - just write a couple of proxies that tunnel TCP traffic through UDP. You could probably even do it with a pipeline of netcat processes.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hotspot provider

    just needs to block DNS for the unauthenticated users.

  12. Jon Massey


    ... yes, but how long would it take you to get through 1.5GB of data on a crappy GPRS connection?

  13. JeffyPooh

    @Alex Rose

    Ack. The virtual beer's on me, sir.

    " 300MB of data on that cellular connection..."

  14. JoshI

    Doesn't Bluetooth 4.0 do this too?

    I think that Bluetooth 4.0 does this hopping wireless network thing too. As afar as I know the only device with Bluetooth 4 is the iPhone 4S!

  15. scarshapedstar
    Thumb Up

    Ooh, what about WEP networks?

    If you have an Aircrack-capable laptop, you can easily double the number of "free" hotspots available...

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