Cellphone startups pave way for new technology

JAMES McDONNELL
Business Correspondent

Google

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS GOOGLE has been working on a phone that will allow users to take advantage of fiber neworks. Cablevision has already announced the creation of a phone that utilizes Wi-Fi services to reduce users’ costs.

The vast majority of college students use cell phones, especially smart phones. The ever-growing concentration on technology is prevalent in the business world too. Many investors are paying close attention to advancements in technology, particularly cell phones.

With that being said, two small startup cell phone companies decided to pioneer a new invention. The innovators found a way to use Wi-Fi to make and receive calls, as opposed to using traditional cellular networks.

The goal of both of these companies, Republic Wireless and FreedomPop, is to reduce users’ cellphone costs by taking advantage of specifically placed Wi-Fi routers and only using cellular networks when these routers are unavailable. While both companies have been around for nearly five years, they are still relatively small companies with users totaling only in the hundreds of thousands.

Compare that to an industry leader like Verizon, which has well over 100 million users. FreedomPop allows its users access to software that enables their smartphones to automatically join Wi-Fi networks, in the same way that cell phones automatically find and join cell towers. With monthly payments of $5, users are given access to more than 10 million Wi-Fi hot spots.
According to the company, many of these would typically be unavailable to the general public. Republic Wireless, which is headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., offers a similar plan.

Also, for only $5 a month customers are able to make calls and connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi. With the upgraded plan for a payment of $10 each month, users can not only use Wi-Fi but also a cellular connection from Sprint, its most popular plan.

The effort of these two companies is not going unnoticed. In January, Cablevision announced that for $30 a month, customers can own a phone that does not require mobile networks; it is powered entirely by Wi-Fi. It has even been rumored that Google has been working on a hybrid phone over the past few years, which would, as New York Times reporter Brian Chen describes, “make use of a fiber network [Google] had installed in various cities to create an enormous network of Wi-Fi connections that phones could use to place calls and use apps over the Internet.”

While Google has declined to comment on any such plans, independent telecom analyst Jan Dawson does not see it happening.

He was quoted by The New York Times as saying, “There are just so many places where Wi-Fi doesn’t reach, and the quality of Wi-Fi that you can find is often subpar.”

Although David Morken, chief executive of Republic Wireless, does not believe this idea of using Wi-Fi as a primary source will become the first option, he does have faith it will become the second option, saving millions of Americans money on their wireless phone bills.

Connecting to Wi-Fi will save Americans money and stress.

Feb. 27, 2015

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