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Republic Wireless now unlimited--for real!

The upstart wireless provider now offers unlimited calling and data for just $19 per month--no strings attached. Best smartphone deal ever?

The Republic Wireless LG Optimus S uses Wi-Fi whenever possible, even for phone calls.
The Republic Wireless LG Optimus S uses Wi-Fi whenever possible, even for phone calls.
Republic Wireless

Earlier this month I took the Republic Wireless smartphone and service for a test-drive.

Quick refresher: You pay $199 for an LG Optimus S (a small but sweet Android 2.3 phone), then $19 per month for "unlimited" voice, texting, and data.

Why the quotation marks? Republic tweaked the Optimus to use Wi-Fi whenever possible for calls and data, thereby keeping 3G usage to a minimum. It was still available, of course, but users who tapped the network too often could be subject to warnings and, with continued excessive usage, termination of service.

In other words, you could indeed enjoy unlimited everything, provided the bulk of it was on Wi-Fi networks.

That's over.

Yesterday afternoon, Republic Wireless announced the elimination of all usage thresholds, effectively removing the quotations marks from "unlimited." Here's a snippet from Republic's Brian Dally:

Rather than revising our fair use policy, we've decided not to have one at all. There will simply be no thresholds, and no risk of losing service. We're doing away with all of that to keep all of the focus instead on where it really belongs: Creating a new wireless future together. A future that is simple to understand, unfettered to use, and an amazing value for all. That's what we started down this path to do. That's where the power of this vibrant community, dynamic Wi-Fi ecosystem and revolutionary technology should be invested. We're all-in.

It's interesting that Republic made this decision while still in beta, and not as part of its official launch. In any case, the one thing that won't change is the phone's propensity to leverage Wi-Fi networks whenever possible. And why not? Wi-Fi works perfectly well for VoIP calls, and it allows Republic to offer 3G service (via Sprint's network) for considerably less than anyone else.

Of course, because the service is still in beta, it remains to be seen whether that $19/month rate will last. I wouldn't be surprised to see it jump to, say, $24.99 or even $29.99. On the other hand, maybe I'm just jaded by the big carriers and their seemingly endless rate increases.

For the moment, I'm seriously jazzed by what Republic Wireless has to offer. The Optimus S is a perfect little phone for someone like my daughter, who doesn't need anything fancy but does like to text and play Angry Birds. And she can afford to pay for the service (which suggests her allowance might be too high, but still).

What are your thoughts on Republic now that it's truly unlimited instead of merely "unlimited"?