On the heels of NetZero’s free mobile broadband news the other day comes word that FreedomPop, a company founded by Niklas Zennstrom of Skype fame, will also offer a free 4G service. In an interview with Forbes the head of marketing laid out a few of the details while keeping others shrouded in mystery. But the basics point to an intriguing service.
FreedomPop will run on a freemium model, offering users some amount of free access while enticing others to pay a bit for extra data. The paid users will then support the free ones. Free users will also have to content with ads.
Like NetZero, users will get their choice of a USB dongle or mobile hotspot device. There’s also supposed to be a third device that FreedomPop isn’t talking about just yet, but TechCrunch scored some inside information on it. Apparently they’re also going to market an iPhone 4/4S case that doubles as a hotspot device.
I’m not sure why that would appeal to people. After all, iPhones already have mobile data and can already act as hotspots. Just because you put the FreedomPop case on it doesn’t mean you can cancel your data plan (the carriers won’t let you). I could maybe see if it was an iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch case. Bringing mobile data to a device without it or a phone that’s no longer connected to the network is useful. There can’t bet hat many iPhone 4 or 4S handsets that fit into that category now.
Also like NetZero, FreedomPop users will have to pay for the device they use for the service, so it’s still not exactly free. However, the company is keeping costs down by essentially renting them for a $29 – $49 deposit, which customers will get back if they leave the service. It’s much easier to pull together that much money as opposed to $100 for a NetZero hotspot.
According to TechCrunch, FreedomPop customers will also get a decent amount of free data per month: 1GB. If you want more, you pay 1 cent/megabyte, which comes out to $10/GB, which is pretty standard.
Though the company didn’t name their network partner to Forbes, TechCrunch reports that it’s Clearwire. That means users will be on WiMAX 4G — not the speediest, but far better than 3G. Also not completely nationwide. Let’s hope the assertion that the company is reaching out to other network providers is true.
Given the amount of data on offer and the lower cost of the devices, FreedomPop looks to stand a better chance at attracting users than NetZero, especially amount lower income customers. The service is set to launch around June, so we’ll know soon.