Feature Article

March 30, 2012

Free 4G Internet for All

A tech startup called FreedomPop backed by the cofounder of Skype promises free wireless broadband for everyone. The free wireless Internet will be channeled over Clearwire’s WiMAX network as well as its upcoming LTE network.

MobilityTechzone reported about FreedomPop’s free Internet offering last week. The slogan of the new company is “The Internet is a right, not a privilege.” So far, FreedomPop offers three different ways you can connect to their networks: USB dongle, iPhone case and a WiFi hotspot device for connecting multiple devices. Users won’t buy these devices but will have to pay an upfront refundable fee to get them.

FreedomPop hasn’t released specifics of how they plan to fund their new service, but it states the free Internet will feature ad support. There will also be paid subscriptions for users looking to buy more than the free 1 GB of data allowed per user per month, as well as a slew of paid add-ons users can purchase.

Tony Miller, VP of marketing for FreedomPop, told Technology Review at MIT there will be overage charges incurred by individuals exceeding their free 1 GB of data per month, but it will only be about one penny per MB, or $10 per GB. 1 GB of data per month over a 4G network lets you view about 1,500 web pages and stream about 450 minutes of music per month. It’s enough data for light use, but if you watch more than 10 minutes of streaming video per day, such as YouTube, you will exceed your 1 GB limit by more than three-fold per month, according to the Verizon Wireless data calculator.

Neil Shah, analyst at Strategy Analytics, said Clearwires’ range is limited. He suggested FreedomPop will have to forge partnerships with other mobile broadband providers to make the free service more widely available and stable. The Clearwire broadband service currently has a reach of 130 million people in 70 major US cities.

The free broadband Internet from FreedomPop is expected to roll out sometime this summer.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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