Broadband everywhere is still elusive. While hotspots aren’t that hard to find in urban areas, finding a free hotspot can be tricky. The rest of the time, even with 4G networks, users might be watching how much they use so as not to exceed limits of the plans the carriers impose.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, with data hungry consumers worrying about overages. Wi-Fi was supposed to give way to, or at least see support from Wi-MAX. But the anywhere broadband network has remained essentially a promise with little delivery.
Now, perhaps the promise is about to become a reality. This week FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols told The Verge, “We’re really trying to deliver a free internet experience, as frictionless as possible.”
This week the company began offering 500MB of free wireless data in major metropolitan areas in the United States, and over the next two weeks the wireless MVNO will begin accepting public beta registrations. The company will also provide Wi-Fi hotspots along with tens of thousands USB dongles that will be required for users to access the network.
Is this too good to be true? That depends. For starters the service runs on Clearwire’s WiMAX network so it is hardly anywhere broadband, and it is an information super highway but one that could be jammed with users and move at speeds resembling rush hour gridlock.
Cost of the service could vary a bit but it won’t be free. Users will need to put a $49 deposit down for the plug-and-play dongle, while the mobile Wi-Fi hotspot running on the WiMAX network will cost about $89. Those deposits are reportedly fully refundable. FreedomPop will also offer iPod Touch and iPhone sleeves for $99, which will allow direct access to the network.
The FreedomPop network will run as a “freemium” service, but much like other data plans there is the cap – in this case 500MB of “free” usage. Those who exceed 500MB are charged $10 for each gigabyte of data, with a range of pre-purchase plans available. FreedomPop is even offering a paid option to remove a speed cap.
Users can further save money by taking part in various promotions the company will offer, but also by referring friends. While the latter sounds a bit like an pyramid scheme of sorts, it could be a way to grow the service quickly – but whether adding too many users will bog down the potentially crowded network isn’t so clear.
Clearwire is also selling unlimited WiWAX for $49.99 a month, which seem to be competing with what FreedomPop is offering.
The next step for FreedomPop is a five-year agreement with Sprint that kicks off next year. The agreement will bring reliable LTE coverage to it’s customers.