FreedomPop: Free 4G Mobile Wireless Data, 500 MB Every Month

Here’s another potential way to cut those monthly expenses. FreedomPop is a start-up offering wireless 4G data service with a free basic plan including 500 megabytes data per month. You can earn more free data by referring your friends or doing things like product surveys or trials. No contracts, no cancellation fees, no ads. Otherwise, small overages will cost $0.02 per MB and bulk plans start from 1 GB for $10 per month. More details:

  • 4G Coverage details. The service is currently based on being an MVNO of the Clearwire WiMAX 4G network which has a coverage area of about 1/3rd of the US. There are stated plans to use Sprint’s 4G LTE network plus their 3G network as a fallback in 2013.
  • You’ll need a WiMAX modem, currently available as a USB modem stick or mobile WiFi hotspot “hockey puck”. The modems are “free” with a $49/$89 refundable security deposit and $5 shipping. Alternatively, you can pre-order a iPhone 4/4S or iPod Touch sleeve for $99 which won’t add much bulk.
  • No per-household limit. Based on media interviews, they are okay with households getting multiple devices each with their own free 500 MB allotment.
  • Fees and Upsells. They say no gotchas, but… they want $3 a month for “Speed Plus” which removes any data throttling. Usage alerts? Another $2 a month. If your account balance falls below $2 and you’re within 100 MB of your limit, it will automatically “top-up” with a $10 charge (you can turn this off in your billing settings). If you don’t use the service that month (less than 5 megabytes) they will charge you a $0.99 inactivity fee.

500 MB per month likely isn’t enough to replace your broadband internet connection, but it could definitely improve your cell phone bill. Brainstorming the various ways you could use FreedomPop to lower your monthly phone costs…

If you already pay for data, you could use this service and downgrade your current plan. If you only have a cheap basic cell phone plan for under $10 a month, now you can supplement any smartphone with free data. You could even turn an iPod Touch into a smartphone with no monthly costs at all by using Facetime, Skype, Google Voice, or other free VoIP services like the Vonage Mobile app. There are even rumors FreedomPop may start their own VoIP client. As a rough rule-of-thumb, a Skype-to-mobile/landline runs about 1 MB per minute. I’d still try and use WiFi or text messages when possible.

Looking at our billing history, I use around 1 GB a month and my wife uses only 300 MB a month. I think if I actually paid attention, I could stay under the free limits. However, I’m not sure I like the vibe of this company as their business model seems to be to advertise a completely free service but nickel-and-dime you into paying at least a few bucks per month. Once our contract is over, I don’t know if I’d rather deal with this or just switch to a Straight Talk $45 Unlimited prepaid plan with a used iPhone. But the upfront commitment is small, so I may try it out.

More: Businessweek, TechCrunch, GigaOM

Comments

  1. Thank you for this information, I will pass it on to the people I counsel for it seems as if people are getting drawn into long term contracts and upsold data phones they can’t afford. They walk into the phone store with a 2 year old phone and expired contract and walk out with a $150 month plan, without thinking that equates to 5% of their income.

  2. I heard about these guys from the WSJ a few days ago. So I have a question: I have t-mobile prepaid. If I use these guys too, how can I possibly have 2 sim cards in one phone? Sorry for the blatant ignorance on my part.

  3. Bryce Shashinka says:

    Be careful with Straight Talk, customer service is useless.

    I tried the unlimited plain with my iPhone and had immediate issues using my home automation and Music server (they block all but the bare minimum of standard ports to allow surfing and vehemently deny they do it) I know they were blocking ports because using my VPN or an AT&T sim restored full functionality.

    I also had used less than 1GB when they started throttling me. Customer service denies that they throttle unless you are above the 93rd percentile of users (which they said I wasn’t) but again switching to my AT&T sim everything worked correctly.

    When I called to enquire they said that I was not being throttled and they had no explanation for why I was getting less than 100Kb except that it was “network problems in my area”

    I ended up switching to AT&T full time and will be defecting to Sprint for “Truly unlimited data*” as soon as my iPhone 5s arrive because my data usage costs so much.

  4. Bryce Shashinka says:

    @Baughman

    The FreedomPop device is available as a sleeve for the iPhone/iPod Touch (if you don’t opt for the USB modem or Puck. It just snaps on the back of the phone. (WiMax doesn’t use sim cards anyway)

  5. intersting idea…you could get the sleeve for the iphone, buy a used iphone, download a fee texting app like pinger that also allows you to make calls over the internet, and essentially get a basic data/phone plan for almost nothing, just the cost to buy more pinger minutes, but they are real cheap. $9 for 400 minutes.

  6. Nicole C. says:

    I wonder how the service quality of FreedomPop compared to Netzero.

  7. I really like this idea but I feel like cell phone plans – just like airline seats – already have pricing models that are way too complicated. It’s a neat idea, definitely, but I cannot see how they could keep prices this low for the long term. It will probably be like a lot of freemium services that change the deal/rework incentives so that it becomes a lot more costly over time.

    Either way, I welcome competition to the industry. My cell phone bill is too darn high!

  8. they are on the same network as NetZero’s 4G, so until they get LTE, coverage is very spotty and worse inside buildings. Still for the price, not a bad addition to the tablet devices that are WiFi only.

    Been using the NetZero 4G for a few months, coverage is a real problem even in metro areas. 2 or 3 skype calls can easilly blow through the free data.

  9. Just FYI that according to FreedomPop’s “Service Plan, Equipment, and Payment Terms” you can only get a refund on the modem deposit if you return it within 12 months of activation. See quote below or source at: https://www.freedompop.com/service_plan_terms.htm

    LEASED EQUIPMENT

    “From time-to-time, FreedomPop may permit you to lease Equipment from FreedomPop instead of purchasing it. In such case, we may require you to pay a deposit when you place your order for leased Equipment. If we collect a deposit from you, we will refund the deposit (less any amounts that you owe to us) to your registered payment method within 90 days of the date on which you notify us that you wish to terminate your subscription, provided that : (a) you terminate your subscription to the Broadband Service within 12 months of activation. . . .”

  10. Bryce Shashinka says:

    Good catch with the “lease” terms. The price isn’t outrageous and 12 months certainly is enough time to ensure that it works for you and for short term usage it is the perfect solution since you never pay for hardware. I would still check to see if you can still leade a new device at the 11 month mark and cancel the original service and start the clock over. Otherwise $90 isnt a bad deal for the 4G modem.

  11. I just entered my zip code, then my address and it said not available for my address.
    Broomfield, Colorado.

  12. I got my freedompop device in the mail (the photon). I’m too cheap to pay for a data plan, so this is a nice supplement to the ubiquitous wifi hotspots at home/work/school. Super fast.

    I suspect a bunch of cheapskates like myself will get this thing. Their system is subject to exploit, i.e., “lease” 30, get 500 mb/day by changing devices daily. We’ll see if they make it through the year…..I hope so. It’s perfect for my needs. It’ll stay in my car permanently.

  13. Baughman, can you update us if you could use Google Voice on this thing? This would be my main reason to get this service. Thanks!

  14. I just ordered a Freedom Pop hotspot today and am pretty excited about it. Wife and I have an iPod Touch and an iPad (without cellular) so this will give us a lot of options.

    They have revised the pricing: the deposit on the hotspot is now $99 and shipping is $6.99. I still thought it was a good deal.

    We will pair our iOS devices and the Freedom Pop hotspot with our prepaid cell phones that cost us about $10 per month. Assuming the hotspot works for us, this setup will serve us well. I just can’t rationalize paying a triple digit monthly bill for a phone/data bill, not with my family’s connectivity needs.

  15. I should add that the “price” I pay is having to carry three devices in my pocket (iPod Touch + “dumb” prepaid phone + Freedom Pop hotspot) versus just one device (standard smartphone). It works for me.

  16. Here’s a better map of the 4G coverage area, so you don’t have to enter your address: http://www.clear.com/coverage

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