Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hybrid phone network offers Wi-Fi calls

Smartphones let you do almost everything over Wi-Fi, so why do we still have to use up cellular minutes when making a call? That's the thinking behind Republic Wireless, a new hybrid phone network that lets you seamlessly make calls using any available Wi-Fi hotspot, falling back to the regular cellular network when you move out of Wi-Fi range.

The company estimates that most people are near a Wi-Fi network 60 per cent of the time, whether that be your home, work or the local coffee house, but it might not be suitable for those who like to roam further afield - rely too much on the cellular connection and you'll receive a warning before eventually being booted off the network. It is a nice idea, especially if you are after a cheap smartphone - the initial cost is $199 for a modified LG Optimus phone running Android, followed by a $19 monthly charge. There is no minimum contract tie-in as with most other networks. You can't yet use your existing phone, though the company says it hopes to allow this in the future as well as providing a range of other handsets.
But is hotspot availability in the US good enough for the hybrid plan to work? Running data-hungry smartphones on Wi-Fi makes much more sense than the ageing cellular network, which was never designed to stream movies or download the latest apps, but it does rather reduce the mobility of your mobile phone.


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