What Wi-Fi's Popularity Means for Cell Phone Carriers

Upstarts like Republic Wireless pitch phones driven by Wi-Fi
Photo illustration by Alis Atwell; Photographs by Alamy (7); Getty Images (5)

David Morken holds a Moto X smartphone out for inspection. “This,” he says, “is a Wi-Fi device.” Morken runs Republic Wireless, a national carrier based in Raleigh, N.C., that offers unlimited calls and texts for $5 per month, $40 if you want unlimited data. Republic keeps its prices low by avoiding something most carriers see as essential: It hasn’t built a cellular network. For customers on the road, the company rents network capacity from Sprint. All other Republic calls, texts, and data use Wi-Fi, which Morken says handles about 50 percent of its calls and texts and 90 percent of its data. “Wi-Fi is eating the world,” he says. “Why ignore the biggest network in the world?”

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