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Ting on Republic Wireless

About 99.5% of the US population has still never heard of Ting or Republic Wireless. The other .5% seem to be talking about both of us. I like the conversation a lot and thought I should offer my own thoughts.

I think what Republic Wireless is doing is really smart. We talk a lot with our users about techiques (alerts, features, apps) to lower their monthly bills. One of the best ways is using WiFi (for both Internet use and phone calls) as much as possible whenever it is available. To take such a strong position on that and to build it so completely into the function of the device is really cool. To be able to shout “unlimited everything for $19/month” is absolutely enviable. (I am a marketing guy. I hate it when someone’s tagline is punchier than mine is.)

The way I see it, the choice between Ting and Republic Wireless is really about freedom and accountability (us) versus simplicity and standardization (them). (They talk a lot about freedom. I don’t think they are getting their own benefits quite right. Although, to be fair, it’s quite different if the reference is Verizon and not Ting.)

It might also come down to how stripped down you are willing to take your service.

Ting gives you clarity and control. We treat mobile services (minutes, text messages, megabytes) like the utilities that they are. We want you to use them however and wherever you like. We want to offer you a choice among as many devices as possible to access them. We include rich features and service around them, from tethering and call forwarding to no hold customer support. We give you razor-sharp visibility into your usage throughout the month. We offer advice and ideas on how you can use your mobile services as little and well as possible. But ultimately, we charge you based on what you use, so you are responsible for what you pay.

Republic Wireless takes a more prescriptive approach and offers even greater certainty when it comes to your bill. There is one device. You must have WiFi in your home. When Wifi is available, that will be the only way to make a phone call. But your bill will always be $19/month plus taxes (a fantastic price).

I think this approach creates some significant risks for them and some concerns for their users:

  • They guarantee the rate no matter what blend of activity they see between WiFi and network usage. They might keep costs low enough to profit there. Or they might find themselves with a difficult choice – operate at a loss hoping to find alternative revenue streams or an acquirer or (as we have seen with unlimited data plans) start to impose limits and penalties on people that don’t use the service the way they hoped.

  • Calls on WiFi can still be a bit spotty. When you browse the web, there’s an expectation pages might freeze or load slowly. A phone call is different. Small gaps are unacceptable. They might have reason to believe that technology is there today. We tend to think it isn’t good enough just yet to rely on exclusively.

Again, I admire the leap Republic Wireless is taking. I think they will introduce and inspire some great innovations around ubiquitous WiFi. I am also excited to hear more voices decrying contracts, overages and other nonsense.

We are just taking a different path to get to a similar place (huge savings versus Verizon and AT&T, greater respect for customers). So far, our customers have proven quite capable of keeping their own bills down. Meanwhile, we clear enough with each bill to make significant, on-going investments in our service and our team.

May we and our customers all feast at the table of plenty. I apprehensively await your comments!