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New wifi-minded carrier offers unbelievable $19 unlimited phone plan

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Republic Wireless could shake up phone plans in a big way, thanks to the wonders of wifi

When it comes to mobile carriers, consumers may have four major choices (for now), but they're all starting to look the same — and that isn't a good thing. But a new provider, Republic Wireless, headquartered in North Carolina, is shaking things up with a rather unbelievable $19 a month no-contract plan. That's $19 not just for unlimited calling and texting, but mobile data too.

Since more smartphones mean more strain on mobile network infrastructure, consumers watch 3G data prices rise on traditional carriers, even as a plan's data allotment is cut back. So what's the catch? Republic Wireless realizes that's a question so common it's actually included a subsection asking just that on its homepage. The company keeps costs down by routing as much of its network activity as possible over wifi internet connections, which are better equipped to handle data-intensive activities like streaming music and movies with no additional cost, assuming you don't max out your home bandwidth limits. This gives the carrier's 3G networks a little bandwidth breathing room, which translates into the $19 deal. As for traditional 3G mobile data, the carrier borrows Sprint's network; if your interest is piqued, it's worth looking into the quality of Sprint's service in your area.

But the wifi-minded carrier isn't for everyone. It employs a calculator called the Cellular Usage Index (CUI) to determine where you fall on the spectrum of mobile users. If you're a light or moderate user (one who won't put too much pressure on their networks), you're the ideal customer. But users who use up a disproportionate share of mobile bandwidth are subject to getting the boot (after a series of warnings) if they don't rein in their heavy voice and data usage.

The good news? The vast majority of mobile customers aren't data hogs. Even if you spend all day returning calls or refreshing your inbox from the palm of your hand, odds are that you fall somewhere on the middle of the spectrum. According to the carrier, "you could consume 550 minutes, send 150 texts, and download 300 megabytes of data without crossing the community's fair use threshold," and that's not even taking wifi — which has no associated cost — into account.

For now, Republic Wireless is limited to one handset: a tweaked version of the LG Optimus running Android 2.3. You can buy the no-contract phone for $99 through November 27 with the promo code "welcome19" before the price goes back up to a standard $199. That's not much choice as far as what you're toting around in your pocket, but it could be a small price to pay to break away from more traditional (and more expensive) carriers.

Ready to sign up? You'll need to have a wireless network to associate with your account, since that's what makes the deal go 'round, after all. The carrier's program is currently in a limited beta, so opt in sooner rather than later to get on board. And since you'll need to ditch your existing carrier, check out our early termination fee calculator so that jumping ship doesn't cost you an arm and a leg.

This article originally appeared on Tecca

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