FreedomPop Finally Pops Out Free Home Internet

by Gaurav Kheterpal on December 13, 2012

Exactly one year ago, I wrote about FreedomPop – a then mysterious startup that aimed to provide broadband and voice services to all Americans at no charge. The company came into limelight when it announced a wholesale network agreement with LightSquared – the company that’s building a nationwide 4G LTE network integrated with satellite coverage.

All through this year, critics and analysts alike questioned the viability of such a business model and how it would survive in an intensely competitive market dominated by cable and Internet giants. Of course, the clock was ticking on when FreedomPop would fulfill its commitment to offer ‘free Internet’.

The defining moment came yesterday when FreedomPop announced that it’s now taking preorders for an $89 device to offer home broadband service using fixed WiMax service powered by Clearwire. Three months back, FreedomPop launched its free portable hotspot, a case that provided an allotment of free 4G data to iPhone and iPod Touch users, with the option to purchase greater amounts of data.

While questions continue to be asked over whether it can really be termed free Home Internet, it’s still a compelling offer for the Internet customers of Comcast, Time Warner and others to consider.

As I mentioned earlier, FreedomPop is a brainchild of Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of Skype, and his venture capital firm Atomico. Last year, Zennstrom said his company will launch in 2012 to ensure that every American has access to fast, free and convenient communication services. It aims to be a webco (analogous to a telco) with no network and hence no major startup costs.

The company says the FreedomPop Hub Burst home modem device, available for an $89 deposit, will start shipping next month. The device supports up to 10 WiFi- or Ethernet-supporting devices and offers 1GB of free data per month. Those requiring more data can sign up for additional gigabytes, starting at 10GB for $8.99 a month. There are no contractual obligations – if a user decides to turn off the service within the first year, he or she can return the modem to FreedomPop and receive the deposit back.

While it may appear to be a bait and switch model, it sounds too good a deal to resist and at least try out the free tier. There’s more – customers also can receive a higher monthly data allowance for free by referring friends to the service. As for the company’s revenue model, FreedomPop expects to generate revenue from services, as well as from the premium user accounts.

FreedomPop coverage is currently limited to the area covered by Clearwire’s WiMax network, but the company plans to move to the Sprint LTE network next year, which will expand the availability of its service. There are also rumours suggesting that Sprint may completely take over ClearWire – if that were to happen, it would boost FreedomPop’s seamless transition from WiMax to LTE.

Of course, it’s early days and it will be interesting to see if FreedomPop’s ‘Free Home Internet’ model takes off.

What do you think? Please share your opinion in the comments section.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby:RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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