Startup may offer free wireless data
As consumers agonize over data caps and even sue carriers for throttling their bandwidth, a new company may be getting ready to offer free, 4G cellular data service — up to a point.
The mysterious startup called FreedomPop promises "free wireless broadband Internet for all!" on its sparse website. Forbes and news site TechCrunch recently learned some interesting tidbits about it. In an interview with Forbes in February, a company executive said FreedomPop will offer three types of devices: a USB stick for laptops, a small, portable Wi-Fi hotspot box and some other "innovative" device.
Today (March 21) TechCrunch said that device will be a router built into an iPhone case. Huh?
The case, if it exists, won't add 4G wireless to an iPhone 4 or 4S - directly. To get it you'd have to log your iPhone onto the Wi-Fi router inside the case. Basically, it's a way for people who carry iPhones anyway to snap on this handy 4G hotspot.
FreedomPop probably will offer a certain amount of data for free. TechCrunch is saying 1 gigabyte per month, which would allow basic stuff like browsing, Facebooking, photo uploading and maybe a little music or video streaming. But if it's a hotspot that several people are using, the data will run out fast. After that, it will cost $10 per gigabyte, TechCrunch thinks.
Actually, that wouldn't be too bad. A 4G hotspot from Verizon costs $50 per month for 5 gigabytes or $80 for 10 GB. And that's with a two-year contract. FreedomPop would have no contract, and, if you don’t use it much in a given month, no cost. You wouldn't have to buy the gear, either. But you would have to put down a deposit, perhaps $30 or so.
The company has said it will make most of its money by selling more-advanced services to a few of its users. It's not clear what these will be — perhaps more data or higher bandwidth, or perhaps features like online cloud storage.
Forbes says the service will go up as soon as June. Meanwhile, you can go to the FreedomPop site and sign up to get more info when they are ready to give it.