"your area" is essentially defined by the first 6 digits of your phone number - the X's and Y's from a number of this format:
as I understand it, these 6 digits differ based on the "rate -center" you are in. a "rate-center" is a geographically defined area wherein various telephone service providers work through a bureaucratic system to establish the right to do business. it does NOT define the "coverage area" though, which is an important distinction.
if there is sprint service in your area, then RW would have cellular coverage there too, but the 'rate-center' phenomenon appear to be preventing them from selling you service linked to any number with the first 6 digits matching your current number.
RW covers a LOT of rate-centers already, but yours just doesn't seem to be one of them. you have 3 options:
1. buy service for a nearby rate-center (same first 3 XXX digits, but a different next 3 YYY digits). calls to your cell phone might still be 'local' calls for others in your area, but you should verify this if it is important to you. note that you would NOT be able to port your number to RW in the foreseeable future (you'd lose that number when you eventually cancel your old service)
2. google voice: you could get a new google voice number, potentially in your area (XXX-YYY all matching). check google voice for this. if google CAN provide a number in that area, it will be free and through android magic (ok: some settings and a google app) your phone can appear to have that number instead of whatever number RW might be able to give it (you'd sign up for service just as described in 1. above, but would have a local number through google). it's even possible to port your old number to google (for $20, one time fee), provided google is a provider in the rate center (their ability to give you a number in that area is a good positive indicator, the inability to give you a number might be a negative indicator but sometimes they just run out of numbers in rate centers they actually DO have access to)
3. some other service similar to google voice: there are others, i don't have a list off the top of my head. google voice seems to be the preferred choice, so consider that option first, but if it doesn't pan out know that there are other options here too. they tend to include a small monthly or annual fee for hosting your number for you, whereas google is free.
Does it sound like a bad idea for me to try RW right now?
i don't know - it depends on your willingness to jump through a couple hoops to get started. if you're willing to have a number from a neighboring area instead of one matching the area from your old number - or are willing to use some other 3rd party for porting your number - then RW is as ready for you as it is anyone else.
you should know already that RW is in beta, this means the service isn't 100% ready yet for just anyone. i don't mean to scare you off - i think the service could very well be perfect for you - but i do want to make sure you've got a good, honest view of the situation before diving in.
It sounds like if you really want to join, you'd have to take a phone number that may be a long-distance number to people who live and work near you, (or subscribe to some sort of forwarding service as I think bitflung is suggesting). The biggest drawback will be that others would have to dial a long-distance number to call you. So, for example, if you have kids in school and the school needs to call you, they may balk at having to dial a long-distance number, since their central office may not approve the cost and sometimes may even have the school phones set to block such calls. Other offices (dentist, doctors) and individuals who still have landlines only may resist calling, since it will cost them extra.
Keep in mind, too, that right now RW does not change phone numbers. Even if someone moves from one area to another, RW will not issue them a new number in their new area. (Source: Change assigned phone number?) So if you are hoping that RW will add numbers in your area later, it would be better to wait for that to happen rather than to expect them to change your number once something is available in your area.
SouthpawKB, Optimus owner, not a republic wireless employee