FreedomPop is losing no time in expanding the free 4G wireless data offering it soft launched back in October, announcing today that it will allow users to share their monthly data allotments with one another.
In a pre-briefing with Telecompetitor yesterday, FreedomPop Chief Operations Officer Steven Sesor said the concept is modeled after the family plans that traditional wireless carriers offer but “it’s not just about sharing on a household [basis]; it’s about sharing with any other friend you have.”
To help facilitate data sharing, FreedomPop said it has expanded its social networking platform to allow customers to use Facebook or Twitter to share and request extra bandwidth from friends. FreedomPop users get one gigabyte of free data per month and the company also offers paid plans with higher data allotments. It is through the sale of those plans that the company aims to make its money.
Today’s FreedomPop announcement also included the news that the company has received a cash infusion of $4.3 million from previous investors DCM and Mangrove Capital, a vote of confidence for the company’s business model.
Sesor said FreedomPop has had considerable success with a viral marketing program that raises a user’s monthly data allotment for each friend who signs up for FreedomPop service. To strengthen that program, FreedomPop also said today that it will raise the amount of free monthly data a user gets for referring each friend from 10 megabytes to 50.
Cutting out the carrier?
Today’s new developments follow close on the heels of Freedom’s January announcement that it would offer a free voice and text service through a partnership with textPlus. As an alternative to the free service, customers also will have the option of paying more to receive additional voice minutes or text messages. The highest of three service tiers will cost $15 a month for unlimited texting and 1,000 voice minutes.
Sesor said the textPlus offering will be available next month – about the same time he said FreedomPop expects to begin shipping a hotspot that will enable multiple WiFi devices to share a 4G connection. “It’s meant to replace your DSL and wireless router at home,” said Sesor.
When FreedomPop announced in December that it would begin taking orders for the hotspot, dubbed HubBurst, the company said it was targeting the $100 billion DSL and cable market. But because FreedomPop’s initial offering focused on mobile devices, that message seemed to get lost.
Perhaps wishing to correct that situation, FreedomPop now uses the term “4G at Home” on its website for the HubBurst product. And in our interview yesterday, Sesor put it even more bluntly.
When the hotspot and the textPlus service are available, he said, “We’re talking about cutting [out] the carrier 100% with a free wireless offering.”
One carrier that would benefit from FreedomPop’s success, however, is Clearwire, which is wholesaling its WiMax service to FreedomPop, with plans to provide LTE to FreedomPop as that technology is rolled out.