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HOUSTON - A growing number of people are turning to a mobile phone service that uses wireless Internet before turning the call over to a traditional cell tower.

For many people, the savings come out to around $1,000 a year.

It s done through a different form of hybrid wireless phone service. Just this week one company, Republic Wireless, offered up a new unlimited phone plan. By the phone for about $100 and you get unlimited minutes for about $30/month.

Republic Wireless is among a few mobile phone providers who say they are inverted from your typical service. When you make a call the phone is programmed to automatically check for wireless Internet to place the call through, using technology powered by the same company that powers Skype. If WiFi isn t available, no big deal, it routes the call through a cell tower.

Unlike most Internet calls, you can still dial 911.

Ting is another company that offers this kind of service, although they focus more on pay-as-you-go plans rather than unlimited. Still it s much cheaper than a typical plan, and it can be just as reliable. Republic Wireless leases its cell tower service from Sprint.

Both Ting and RW have calculators that show how much you d spend/save by going with them. Most people can probably drop their $100 phone plan down to $20 if you have WiFi handy.

So what s the catch? Nothing really, but there are some things to note...

>> You have a limited choice of phones (You won t find the iPhone on RW or Ting)
>> You pay up front for the phone (Anywhere from $100 to several hundred)
>> No MMS on Republic Wireless (can t send text messages with photos or video)

It may not be for everyone, but it s definitely worth looking into if you want to save cash.

On the web:

Questions? Comments? Feel free to reach out to Doug on Facebook (facebook.com/KHOUDougDelony)or Twitter (@DougDelonyKHOU)

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