Why Wi-Fi really will disrupt mobile

The mainstream media spotlighted disruptive technology this week when The Wall Street Journal discussed How plan, old Wi-Fi will revolutionize the cellular industry. Noting how Wi-Fi speeds have increased dramatically over the last decade, writer Brian Fung takes a look at the new wave of MVNOs that use carriers’ own networks to undercut the operators. Fung cites Republic Wireless, which offers a Wi-Fi-only plan that includes voice, text and data for $5 a month, as well as a $40 monthly plan that falls back to Sprint’s 3G and 4G networks when Wi-Fi isn’t available.

I wrote a year ago that Republic was one of several MVNOs that might change the mobile landscape in the U.S. in 2013, and while the company doesn’t disclose customer numbers it certainly seems to be making headway. Those U.S. MVNOs are following the lead of Free Mobile, a subsidiary of the French telecom Iliad that leans on non-cellular technologies to offer cut-rate mobile services. Free’s growth has slowed lately, but the service provider has already forced traditional cellular operators to cut their prices to compete. Republic and other new MVNOs are likely to do the same here in the U.S.

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