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Want six months of free cellphone service? Republic Wireless hopes you do

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What’s better than cheap wireless service? Cheaper wireless service. Republic Wireless, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) which delivers discounted cellphone coverage over a patchwork of Sprint, T-Mobile, and Wi-Fi towers, is launching a new promotion that will give new customers who sign up six months of free service.

The new Republic Wireless plan requires that you bring an approved Android device (running Marshmallow or later) and order a $5 SIM card — Republic Wireless will waive shipping. But once you check those two boxes, it’s downhill from there — unlimited talk and text service, plus 2GB of 4G LTE data, is free for six months. That’s a $30 per month value.

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You’re not limited to the free 2GB data bucket option, of course. You can opt for 1GB of data and have it free, or upgrade to a 10GB, $90-per-month talk and text plan.

You’ll have to activate your SIM card before June 7 in order to take advantage of the promotion.

Republic Wireless’s plans aren’t perfect, of course. If you don’t opt for the limited-time promotional line, you’re stuck choosing from one of the devices in the carrier’s storefront. This past summer, Republic Wireless stopped issuing refunds on monthly data its subscribers didn’t use. And unlike Google Fi, where the phones switch between T-Mobile and Sprint at will, Republic Wireless customers have to choose between Sprint or “GSM” (T-Mobile) phones based on whichever carrier has the best service near them.

But its rates are undeniably cheap — especially compared to the competition. After Republic Wireless spun off from parent company Bandwidth in December, it launched a $15 per month plan for unlimited Wi-Fi calling and texting. AT&T’s least expensive equivalent starts at $45 a month.

“The past five years have been an incredible ride as we’ve worked hard to save our customers tens of millions of dollars off their cell phone bills,” Republic CEO Chris Chaung said in a statement. “However, the best days are still ahead of us. With this extraordinarily talented [staff] and all the benefits this spin-off provides, we will accelerate our mission to provide remarkably simple and affordable ways for people to stay in touch.”

The MVNO market has seen a substantial uptick in recent years. US Mobile, an MVNO founded in the beginning of this year, expects to grow from an initial 20,000 subscribers to 100,000 by the end of this year, representing an annual rate of 30 percent. TracFone, another MVNO, added more customers in June 2016 than in any other month in the last two years.

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