Freedom Pop_Mobile BroadbandFreedomPop, a startup company that includes Skype founder Niklas Zennstom among its backers, today launched what the company is calling a “public Beta” of the free mobile broadband offering the company first talked about nearly a year ago.

A FreedomPop spokesperson said in an email to Telecompetitor that the offering initially will rely on Clearwire’s 4G WiMax network but will also begin supporting the Sprint 4G LTE network in the first quarter of 2013.

The free service will enable users to obtain 500 MB of data each month at no charge, with the option of earning up to 1 GB of data each month by adding friends to their networks or earning unlimited data each month by participating in what FreedomPop called “partner promotions.”

Partner promotions, the FreedomPop spokesperson said, might include offers such as filling out an online survey or watching a video in order to garner more free data.

FreedomPop executives have said previously that they’re not counting on making much money from advertising, however.  So how will the company make money?

“We will be monetizing by those folks who want to purchase a data rate plan, priced 20-40% lower than AT&T and Verizon,” the FreedomPop spokesperson said. In addition, the spokesperson said FreedomPop will also be offering “premium services” at a low cost. According to the spokesperson, these include:

  • FreedomPop Protection Plus – 24/7 customer service and replacement service within 48 hours
  • Notification Alerts which provide users with alerts when they have hit their data cap
  • TurboBoost, which provides faster 4G

To use the FreedomPop mobile broadband service, however, customers will need to purchase one of several devices, including:

  • Freedom Stick – Bolt, a USB stick enabling personal computers and laptops to get on to the FreedomPop/ Clearwire mobile data network, which will sell for $49
  • Freedom Spot – Photon, a MiFi hotspot enabling up to eight devices to share a connection to the FreedomPop/ Clearwire mobile data network, which will sell for $89
  • FreedomSleeves for the iPhone 4/4S and iPod Touch – As pictured on the FreedomPop website, these are a type of cover for either of the Apple products. The FreedomPop spokesperson said they will “act as a hotspot for up to eight devices and provide 4G services” for the iPhone 4/4S or iPod Touch, essentially eliminating the need for the Freedom Spot – Photon or Freedom Stick – Bolt.  Both sleeve models will carry a price of $99 and will be available in four to six weeks, the FreedomPop spokesperson said.

The ability to use a FreedomSleeve with the iPod Touch is particularly interesting because the product does not support connectivity to other cellular networks. FreedomPop believes iPhone 4/4S users will be interested in using FreedomPop for data connectivity because the FreedomPop/Clearwire network is faster than the networks that are currently supported by the iPhone 4/4S, the spokesperson said.