Western Carolina University in Cullowhee is a typical dead zone. Inside brick buildings surrounded by mountains, getting a cell signal can be a struggle. Except for Tanner, a junior in electrical engineering at WCU and member of Republic Wireless.
Finding Better Service
Tanner joined Republic when his parents booted him off their plan 2.5 years ago.
“There were a few things out there, like Metro PCS, and every phone was fairly priced but then I saw [Republic’s] plans,” Tanner said. “That’s what sold me on it.”
Our WiFi calling and texting gave Tanner service where his friends could barely get a few bars.
“[Freshman year,] I was the only one who had phone reception,” Tanner said. "I was calling my mom and dad, streaming Skype, everything. So it’s always been easy for me.”
A couple years later, the story hasn’t changed.
“The signal doesn’t reach the apartment where I live now so my friend will have his phone on the window sill or outside on top of a little light box, it’s hilarious to see,” he said. “Every time my friend complains I just tell him [about Republic].”
Tinkering with Tech
A true engineer at heart, Tanner loves learning the ins and outs of technology. Between semesters, he works for Audio Visual Architects in Charlotte on home-theater and home-audio systems.
“We worked in Jeff Gordon’s place,” he said. “He has a ‘good morning’ button, so you press one button and the blinds go down, the TV turns on, the coffee maker brews coffee, and then the car garage opens up. It’s pretty cool. We do things that. It’s honestly what I love doing.”
When it comes to the WiFi to Cell (and Cell to WiFi) handover technology behind his phone, however, Tanner just wants it to work.
“When someone calls me and I have to go somewhere, it hands over to cell and I can hop out of my apartment with no issue, so that’s pretty cool,” he said.
In his few hours of free time (18 credit hours ain’t easy), Tanner’s almost always tinkering with a side project.
"I make speaker enclosures and test them to make sure I get it right. I got bored one day and I made one out of cardboard. It actually sounded really decent.”
For his most recent project, he went all out to patch a hole in his front door.
“I painted the Western Carolina logo, and then cut out the W, C, U and the eye of the catamount,” he said. “Then I put plexiglass on the back so whenever you knock on it, it lights up. I’m in the process of making that.”
Freedom to Travel
Tanner would love to take his Republic phone on a trip to Germany (fun fact: he’s a German minor!). He visited the country a couple times before, but said the international cell service was a hassle with his previous provider.
“I spent $80 for a loaner [phone] and, the first time I went, the plan was about a $200 venture,” he said. “It was ridiculous. The second time, I just went without a phone and emailed. If I were to go with Republic, it runs off of WiFi so that wouldn’t be an issue.”
On the weekends, Tanner travels to live shows or visits friends at other colleges across the country. With his Republic phone, he never has to worry about losing service or maxing out his data on road trips.