Republic Wireless launches hybrid wifi/mobile network in the US
There's a buzz on the other side of the pond today about a new mobile 'hybrid' network called Republic Wireless. Republic is a MVNO of sorts as it piggybacks on Sprint (sort of the 3rd tier network stateside) to provide what it's calling a hybrid mobile service - basically it autoswitches between the mobile network to a wifi network when available. The big selling point, and the reason for the buzz, is that they are offering an all you can text/call/browse/eat package for $19. The downside to all this is it's launching with a modified LG Optimus which is a bit long in the tooth at this point.
Details aside, this looks like the start of a convergence trend in mobile technology. We are getting to the point where the difference between wifi and mobile networks is not very large - you can see this in the 4G/WiMax developments. This convergence of mobile technology is happening at the same time as a shift in our mobile usage where the mobile 'phone' is becoming less about phoning and more about data usage whether in the browser, apps or texts.
In some ways this convergence handset feature of wifi/mobile autoswitching is less the future than the future patched together in the present. That's assuming the wifi and mobile techs converge at some point soon. IN the meantime though is this the kind of network we need now? How much usage do we do when away from a wifi access point currently?
The odd thing is that the future in this case looks a lot like the recent past. Remember BT Fusion? Within the house you were linked to the BT base station for voip and data and once you walked out you autoswitched to mobile. Unfortunately BT has had great vision but haven't been bold enough to stand up for it - Fusion was killed back in 2008 (never mind their short sighted sale of BT mobile aka O2).