We don’t usually look backward here at Republic Wireless, but as we celebrate our 5th birthday, now is as good a time as any to take a trip down memory lane and see just how far we have come in the last five years.
Our parent company, Bandwidth, started in 1999 reselling internet connectivity to small businesses in Utah, and in 2001, relocated to North Carolina. That’s when David Morken and Henry Kaestner joined forces and grew Bandwidth from there.
In 2004, we started offering VoIP and SIP Trunking to small businesses and continued to grow to the point where we could see the market growing for IP-based services. By 2007, we built a nationwide IP network. This is one of the components of Republic Wireless. Just for context, the first iPhone was launched in 2007.
In 2009, we launched Phonebooth, which is a hosted phone system for small and medium-sized businesses. This product saves small businesses a lot of money by letting them create a professional phone system entirely through a web interface. This product continues today and was another component of the early Republic platform.
To capitalize on the explosive growth of mobile for the small and medium sized business, we launched Phonebooth Mobile in 2010, as an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) reselling Sprint service and devices. One of the devices we were selling was the LG Optimus. This agreement, and the time we spent there, was very valuable. This was a small team that became the nucleus of the Republic team, and the MVNO agreement was another piece of the Republic puzzle. Additionally, we were looking at prototype apps to create a VoIP calling client over WiFi that connected your mobile phone to your office phone system.
That’s when the light-bulb moment happened: To differentiate our mobile offer, what if we could put the WiFi calling into the phone?
What if we could offload voice, data and messaging, and pass those savings onto our customers? What if instead of just offering it to businesses, we could help everyone benefit from this new idea and technology? We saw an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up to help people stay better connected with one another.
Just like that – the idea for Republic was born. Through the power of our Hybrid WiFi + Cell Calling technology, we could now offer a radically low price, more coverage over the largest network the vast majority of people were already using – effectively lowering the barrier to entry for many people who could now enjoy their very first smartphones.
We hacked and hammered on the Optimus, and on November 8th, 2011, our plucky team of less than 20 people (yes, you read that right, 20 people) launched Republic Wireless in a small Beta test program. Or, that’s what we thought. We got great coverage in Techcrunch and GigaOm and hit the homepage of Yahoo (remember those days…?).
We got slammed by a wave of interest in what we were doing that, at the time, we could only have dreamed of. I hope you all get to experience the crazy energy we all had on launch night just once in your lives. It really was incredible to be a part of. We wondered if anyone would actually care about what we were trying. You did.
After that, it was all hands on deck to get Optimus devices procured and shipped, and we sort of made it…. It was pretty hectic: preparing the phones; shoving them in boxes; and handing them to the FedEx guy. It became obvious quickly that people were really interested in what we were doing and we needed to get serious.
We knew immediately that in order to do this the right way, we needed to get device partners involved, and we made a pretty big bet internally and focused our teams entirely on the Republic opportunity.
We spent a year working with Motorola on the DEFY XT and launched that device almost a year later in November of 2012. Behind the scenes, we literally replaced every backend system to ensure we could scale and serve more and more customers. We also did a lot of hiring and ramped up our support team as well.
We learned a lot with the launch of the DEFY XT about what it takes to get a phone to market at scale. We made some mistakes, learned some valuable lessons – some that cost us a lot of money, but at this point we were all in. We couldn’t stop now! We knew we were onto something big with our hunch about using WiFi for more than just Internet (clearly, the rest of the industry thinks so too now). And, every decision early on, no matter how costly, was the right thing to do for you, our members.
That ideology of putting our members first continues on and shapes how Republic does business all the way to today.
We learned with the DEFY XT how to take feedback, how to work with our members, and use that collaboration to chart the course forward. This is where our vibrant Community blossomed. It was a pivotal moment in our short history that has continued to make Republic and our service even better. We absolutely couldn’t have done it without you. After the DEFY XT launch, we looked at our next device and started working with our partners at Motorola to up our game even more.
They too were going through some interesting times. They were bought by Google, and had many thousands laid off, including a lot of the team we were working with on our Republic project, unfortunately. But, we have a great relationship with Google through our wholesale team and were fortunate to be a part of the relaunch with Motorola’s new Moto X – a phone that was released with critical acclaim.
We spent a lot of time and effort rewriting our proprietary WiFi + Cell Calling ROM and our Republic app to give us more flexibility for releasing features and getting them to you with more speed. After a lot of work and planning, we launched the Moto X on November 13, 2013. Yes, just a year before, we were still selling the DEFY XT – our Beta test device we weren’t even sure anyone would want or care about. Amazing how time flies.
Since the original Moto X launch, we have continued to drive forward to improve quality and phone selection, while looking at ways we can save you money on your cellular service.
We continued to release new plan offerings and new phones including the Moto E, E2 and updated G3 and Moto X2.
We knew that it was taking too long to update phones, so we spent a lot of resources and time figuring out how to make our impact on the ROM less significant.
We also looked hard at our plan offerings and wondered what we could do better to create an offer that would be better for both us and you, our members. We launched the Republic Refund plan options. They worked for some people but didn’t resonate with everyone. As smaller companies do, we took this information and tweaked the offer to make that we were offering plans that were easy to understand and offer great value.
In addition, we continued to evolve our WiFi calling capability and launched Adaptive Coverage™, which significantly increases the quality of your Wifi Calls by using some cellular data to patch the data drops on WiFi without fully switching to WiFi. This was a major breakthrough.
These progressions led us to July of this year, where we launched, on one day, as many phones as we had launched in total up to that point.
It was a very big day and was shortly followed by Bring Your Own Phone. These are things we aspired to when we drew up the original idea for Republic 5 years before. It was very satisfying to get there and build this better solution for you.
Since then, we have added support for a number of other phones, and we continue to update our selection with new phones.
We have announced support for Android N basically as soon as it was available. This is something that would have taken over 12 months in our previous architecture. This is a significantly better offer for you, our members.
The past 5 years have been an amazing ride, and we are very excited to see what the next 5 years bring. We have lots of stuff in store for you and are very grateful you have come along for the ride.
Tell us about your Republic journey here.