"The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.
The revolution will not be televised."
I'm a middle age man with a love/hate affair with telephones. I can't do my work without one, and when I started in business 30 years ago, it was not unusual for me to pay $2000 a month for long distance service.
I had one of those huge box "portable phones" that weighed about 20 pounds and could only be used in my car, with an installed antenna. I've had Blackberry's, Sidekick's, every brand of traditional cellular phone imaginable and every version of the iPhone that has made its way to market.
I'm usually in line to purchase IPhones when a new version comes out. In my obsessive quest to find the ultimate wireless experience, a thought keeps going in the back of my mind:
Am I getting ripped off?
Since I was conditioned by the huge percentage of my income that went to phones in the past, I kept looking at the higher and higher phone bills as a necessity. I kept thinking that the lousy customer service that AT&T and Verizon make part of their business model is the cost of doing business with a monopoly. Every time I sign a two-year service contract, my phone was obsolete about a year early.
I know that the United States is far behind the rest of the world in internet and cellular capacity. In the best-selling book The World Is Flat, it says something to the effect that if a candidate for president ran on a platform of catching Sweden and Norway in the race for connectivity, they would win in a heartbeat.
I know that I would vote for them. Every increase in bandwidth helps to improve my business. Affordable smart phones could allow for people to live wherever they want, but work and do business in another part of the country. It could empower smart people in poverty stricken areas to network with people who can use their skills and services.
In short, the country doesn't need a nickel cigar. The world needs a place where they have access to first class technology at a very low price.
That is not happening in the existing world order. AT&T and Verizon cram their products down our throats. Like it or not, I had to use AT&T for my original iPhones and wound up sticking with them since I was not sure that Verizon would be any better.
Consumers need a quality phone that provides inexpensive coverage at a super low price.
Enter Republic Wireless.
When you buy the Moto X phone from them ($300), you own it. No contracts, no hassles. The internet service is priced at about one third of what I am paying now for a smart phone. You can get a working phone for as little as $5 a month and the most you will pay is $40 a month for unlimited coverage with 4G service.
The phones use wireless service wherever they can and roll over to Sprint when they can't access wireless. I've yet to lose a call or connection and for some reason, it connects much faster than my iPhone. Tonight was the ultimate test. I took it and my iPhone to a University of Kentucky basketball game. It is usually impossible to connect via AT&T during a game as all 24,000 fans seem to be using the phones at once. My iPhone didn't connect. No problem with the Republic Wireless Moto X.
When I first saw a story about Republic Wireless in BusinessWeek, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-08/where-do-you-really-need-a-carriers-wireless-network I was skeptical but intrigued. When Republic Wireless released their service with Moto X as the smart phone, I was on the list of journalists who received a demo account. At the same time I was trying mine, a number of publications geared to computer geeks, like ZDNet http://www.zdnet.com/republic-wireless-moto-x-review-top-consumer-smartphone-and-low-cost-service-are-a-killer-combo-7000023543/ CNET http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19736_7-57611724-251/hands-on-with-the-republic-wireless-moto-x/ and Laptop Magazine http://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/smartphones/motorola-moto-x-republic-wireless.aspx did raving reviews of Republic Wireless and Moto X. If you are looking for all the nuts and bolts about the phones and the different plans offered, the best place to look is at those reviews or on the Republic Wireless website, https://republicwireless.com/
I am more interested in the sociological and business implications of what Republic Wireless has done.
From those standpoints, Republic Wireless has a game changer. For all of us who are fed up with AT&T, Verizon, and other big companies with their high monthly fees, long-term contracts (two years is a long time in the technology world), lousy customer service and a general attitude that they can do whatever they want and we can't do anything about it, Republic Wireless offers the first opportunity for consumers to fight back.
The phone works great and is dramatically cheaper to operate than what their competitors are peddling.
People have made a lot of money in this world by offering better products at substantially cheaper prices. The marketplace will come to your door. Which I suspect will happen with Republic Wireless. I was told they were privately owned, but it is the type of company I would love to own part of as it kicks into high gear.
As for the rest of my Republic Wireless story...
After a couple of weeks with my demo (which I have to send back), I signed up to purchase my own phone through Republic Wireless. I purposely did not contact the media relations people as I wanted to have the average consumer experience.
Then I ran into a glitch. I have homes outside of New Orleans and outside of Lexington, Kentucky. But I was assigned an area code not related to either. When I wrote to complain, I did not get a response. (It turns out I had sent it from an unknown email account.)
Thus, I posted on their Facebook page. That seemed to stir some action as Republic Wireless seems to have active monitors for their pages who solve problems on the spot. I wound up interacting with many key tech people. They got me a New Orleans number and said the problem of assigning phones (and for the moment, not being able to change numbers on your own) is one they will solve and solve quickly.
I'm a longtime Google Voice user and the phone makes it simple to connect with that.
I lived and died for Apple because I felt like Steve Jobs was "sticking it to the man." Now after his death, I am starting to feel like Apple is "the man." The innovations are not as snazzy, the prices don't go down and customer service, especially if you are dealing with AT&T, is not in the same league as what it used to be.
Republic Wireless has "stick it to the man" potential. A terrific phone at a cheap price is going to cut into AT&T and Verizon's market share. If they can keep the prices low and the customer service high, Republic Wireless has the opportunity to completely change the landscape of one of the most important tools that every successful business needs to have.
If they keep the $5 a month option on the table and find low cost phones to match, they are going to open up the world of communications for a whole segment of the market who could not afford to get in it.
For a company like mine, service from Republic Wireless will save us thousands of dollars a year. Dollars we can spend on expanding our business, which is also focused on "sticking it to the man."
This revolution won't be televised. It will be played out on smart phones instead.
And as Gil-Scott Heron said in the same song, "the revolution will put you in the driver's seat."
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC., www.donmcnay.com, is a best-selling author of several consumer-oriented books and isCEO and Chairman of RRP International Publishing and Digital Media. He is Chairman of McNay Settlement Group and an expert on what to do when you win the lottery
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