Republic Celebrates 5 Years: A Look Back

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.

Dream phone giveaway

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.

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20 thoughts on “Republic Celebrates 5 Years: A Look Back”

  1. First of all… Congratulations to the whole Republic Team and Community. In 2011 I was carrying a flip phone with Verizon and paying $50 a month for voice. I wanted to go to a smartphone and started looking for a service utilizing wi-fi since I am either at home or at work 75% of the time with wi-fi at both locations. I stumbled onto an article (I don’t even remember where) about you guys. Apparently I and many many others signed up to be notified if and/or when you guys were ready. December 11th I received an email stating if I am still interested, you were ready. I placed an order for the Defy XT on December 12th and have been with you since (now along with my wife). I upgraded to the Moto X in 2012 and then the Moto X2 in 2013. I am currently awaiting delivery of my Nexus 6P today. My wife has been using my hand-me-down Moto’s since she is now retired.
    I am one of the many Republic customers who have experienced nothing but good service with Republic. Sure, with beta and growing pains there have been minor hiccups over these past few years, but an answer was always a community search away.
    Again… Congratulations and a big THANK-YOU.

  2. Just wondering if I am the only one left that still has a Motorola Defy XT. All of my friends make fun of me but i love the cost. I just wish i could move most of the apps off the phone and add some of my own. I even tried adding a 32MB card but that still won’t let me add more than like 3 apps.

    1. whoa – drop $250 over the holiday shopping season and BYOD with a Moto X Pure – your mind will be absolutely blown compared to a DEFY XT

    2. I am using a Defy XT. Love the size, robustness, removable battery. But I did learn the hard way that group texts and texts with photos just don’t show up…might finally be the reason I upgrade.

  3. Congratulations! I have been a customer since the beginning. I also smile each month whenever I get my bill. Keep up the good work and keeping your customers first!

  4. I kept tabs on the Beta test, but waited to switch until late 2013 when I could take my whole family with me — and have been singing Republic’s praises ever since. Our 3-phone household cellphone bill dropped from $230 (gasp — I can’t believe we ever paid that much!) to $75 max, but thanks to the Republic Refund program, the highest bill we’ve paid since 2014 is $46 dollars. That’s an 80% savings, with reliable service and clear voice quality. I wish I could remember how many people I’ve pointed your way. I love my Moto X2 (although that curved back still throws me from time to time), and I wouldn’t change back to my old carrier for ANYTHING. Thanks, Republic, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  5. Congratulations – you had me at Beta! I cannot adequately express how much I love the Republic service and ethos. It is hard to believe that it was just 5 years ago that I was stuck in AT&T pergatory (that is as nicely as I can put it). So sick of their “billing errors”, overages, and arguing over basic human decency – then along came Republic. I am still fanatical about my cell usage (or lack there of). I love saving you (and me) money – well, actually, I am addicted to it. Love the upgrades, love the new offerings, still some call “hand off” issues – but perhaps (most likely) that’s me? My kids like the service too – but I must admit there have been a few grumbles about them not having the latest IPhone. Howerver, even that we have turned into an important life lesson about the cost / value equation and whether or not the product, the service and the providers are folks with whom we want to do business. In summary, congratulations and thank you. Looking forward to many years to come!

  6. I am an evangelizer for Republic. I signed on as soon as I could, October 2012, after I got out from under my Verizon contract. I love the service and the phone that I have. It’s all perfect for what I need.

    One suggestion for you. I just found out today that your parent company offers a VOIP system for business called Phonebooth. It just so happens that the company I work for is looking for a new phone system, so I told the money people about yours. I know many people work for companies that are constantly looking for ways to save a buck. Perhaps you should cross promote those products.

  7. Very proud of you guys. Great company. My only customer Feedback is to consider bringing back the referral program. While I had five months of free service, republic wireless received five new customers. It seemed like a win-win relationship.

  8. It will be three years next month since I started my service with Republic Wireless. I have had the Moto X first generation phone for all that time and it has given me nothing but great service, even with dropping it many times. Republic Wireless was a breath of fresh air compared to Straight Talk and still is in my opinion. Here’s to many more years of great service at great prices.

  9. I had heard about you years back around the time when you were fairly new, but did not have the cash to pay for a phone upfront. So I waited and opted to stay with my carrier and change carries and even did prepaid. I hated all of the money that I wasted. I finally went back to check on the Republic website after years to see what was new and saw that you had just launched the Affirm bundle (April 2016) to finance a phone. I was outdone and signed up right away in May of 2016. I got the 16GB Moto G – 3rd generation in white. Exactly 1 month later, I got my 17 year old the same phone. It was just in time as she would be going off to college in the Fall of 2016. I have been pleased at the service – Wi-Fi and the crazy affordable bills each month for 2 phones. They have NEVER been over $30.00 with the Wi-Fi and refund plan! I thank you so much for your service and phones. It is now imperative that I get my 6th grader a phone soon and will opt for the same phone before you sell out of them!

  10. I have loved my moto x2 and the small bills but I don’t get the best service in my area. I hear the pure gets great service around here though.

  11. I first signed up for Republic during the beta. I have loved the service and told many people about it. Unfortunately, my old Moto X wasn’t cutting it any longer and I had to move on to one of the 3.0 plans. The change in coverage to T-Mobile hasn’t been the easiest to deal with and the problems with it have become more than I can accept. I will be moving to another carrier this week after almost 4 years of great service. If I lived in a more populated area I’m sure I would still be doing great. With any luck Republic will cut a deal with one of the larger carriers and then I will be coming back ASAP. Thank you to Republic for upending the mobile industry and revolutionizing how people connect. You all rock!

  12. I first heard about Republic from one of the guys on the Motorola team working on the Defy XT, and eagerly signed up for the beta – remember how we had to wait for our slot to come up?

    Sadly my friend was one of those laid off after the Google purchase (so if anyone is looking to hire a Six Sigma qualified analyst in Chicago – poor bastard is working retail at the moment) but I’m still with Republic. Finally moved off the Defy late last year and have only needed to buy extra data twice in the intervening time. Happy customer, and plan to stay that way

  13. I would say two things:
    1. I loved and still love the idea of calling via wifi. Everybody saves a buck. The quality is fine as we live in San Diego.
    2. I set up auto pay for the Republic bills on my American Express – Costco combo credit card. When American Express and Costco parted their ways in June this year, we were late in one payment. I tried online messages and emails with their customer support to change credit card and pay the balance. The customer service reps had no idea what they were doing as their email or text replies were not helpful. I demanded to speak to a live person for a couple of weeks. I could not get a live person. The reason I got? To save money. While they may save money by not manning their customer services, they certainly lost money as I had to just cancel the account and retire the phone, which probably will be a piece of junk soon.
    Moral: Don’t expect a live person to provide customer service UNLESS they have changed their policy since June 2016.

  14. Republic, you represent the truth in consumer-based business. You have asked us what we wanted, and worked tirelessly to provide it. And you do it with class and simplicity. Thank you for all of your work, to provide us with a quality service at an affordable and JUSTIFIABLE price. I’ve been in since first Beta and love to read your updates and improvements. I love you guys. Bravo. Bravo.

  15. I am very pleased with my refund plan which gives unlimited everything for about $13 a month since I am usually near wifi. My usual data usage is 4GB a month. Republic should continue offering and promoting it. I am not as happy with my recent Moto G3 purchase because it came with Android 5 and needs Android 6 to use SD card memory for most apps and data. Republic has no announced schedule for the necessary upgrade.

  16. I love Republic Wireless. I had to join after a demotion at work required me to cut my expenses and I have never been sorry about switching to Republic Wireless. Thanks Republic for offering me a way to keep my cell service without cutting my connectivity and great service! A working persons answer to a prayer!

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