(Courtesy of Republic Wireless)

A little-known communications company rolled out a $19 unlimited everything monthly smartphone plan yesterday. You read that correctly, unlimited minutes, texting and data for $19 month with no contract.

Republic Wireless is hoping to blow the competition out of the water by dropping the price of smartphone service 50% below the nearest competitor. Now that you know the scintillating offer, what’s the catch and how does it work? Let’s break it down.

What are they offering?

$19 unlimited monthly voice, texting and data with no contract and no overage charges. Only one phone model is available, the LG Optimus, for $99 (with coupon code: “welcome19”, courtesy of Y! Tech). The price goes back up to $199 after November 27, 2011.

How does it work?

Republic Wireless knows that providing cellular network service can be costly, both for voice and data traffic. So they rely on routing your calls through wifi networks instead of cellular networks whenever possible. If you’re sitting at home or at a coffee shop, your calls, texts and data will go through wifi (through VoIP, for you tech geeks out there) instead of a cellular network.

But don’t fret! Stray outside of an available WiFi network and the phone will switch to cellular mode. Republic Wireless leases time and bandwidth from the Sprint network. If you get a Sprint signal, you’re good.

What’s the catch?

You’re going to have to keep an eye on your overall usage.

The company will keep tabs on your cellular voice, text and data usage. They track your usage over a rolling 7-day period and compare it against a “Cellular Usage Index.” It’s basically their way of ensuring that you’re not using too much of their resources on the cellular network. Just remember to stay below this index number or else they’ll send you a nastygram in the mail asking you to comply.

***UPDATED 12/23/2011: Republic Wireless has announced that they will be ditching the Cellular Usage Index. The service is now truly unlimited through at least the end of the beta period, if not, longer. See this blog post for more details: http://2mf.in/tBsOph***

Is it for me?

If you’re a light to moderate cell phone user, then you’re good. According to Republic Wireless, consuming 550 voice minutes, sending 150 texts and downloading 300 MB of data a month would not cross the index threshold.

Also, if you’re a penny pincher and willing to go along with the restrictions, then this deal is also good for you. You can also port your number over to them if you have a phone number you want to keep.

However, you should also probably view this deal with a little bit of skepticism. Republic Wireless’ parent company, Bandwidth.com, has been around for over 10 years. However, Republic Wireless itself has not been around that long. Could they close up shop overnight, leaving you in a lurch? Possibly, if business goes downhill. I’m not predicting or saying this will happen, but its just something to keep in mind.

How do I get it?

Just go to the Republic Wireless website and click “Join.” Hurry though, they’re technically in beta and could close down the service to new subscribers at anytime.

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