FreedomPop - freemium MVNO - wireless startups - Fierce 15 2012

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Where it's based:
Tarzana, Calif.
When it was founded: 2011
Website: www.freedompop.com

Why it's Fierce: Although it hasn't launch commercial service yet, we find FreedomPop's concept so intriguing we added the company to our Fierce 15 list. The company, which is backed by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, is a mobile virtual network operator. However, company executives cringe when you refer to FreedomPop as an MVNO because that term is associated with so many failed companies from five or six years ago like Helio Mobile, Disney Mobile and ESPN Mobile. Nevertheless, FreedomPop plans to launch a beta service later this summer with Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMAX network to deliver "free broadband and voice services to all Americans."

FreedomPop has been very cagey about the specifics of its business model but has hinted that when it launches later this year it will offer a "freemium" model, where basic services are offered for free but premium services cost money.  In late March FreedomPop said it intends to allow its customers to share wireless data between each other and will reward customers with extra data if they refer new users to the service.

Interestingly, FreedomPop has started taking orders for what it calls an iPhone 4/4S sleeve, a case that is WiMAX enabled and connects to Clearwire's network. The case costs $99 and users will get a guaranteed 500 MB of data per month for free. In addition, users can connect up to eight other devices to the sleeve, which also doubles as a battery charger that FreedomPop claims can extend battery life up to six hours.

What's next: Any business scheme that promises something for "free" usually isn't as easy as it sounds. Nevertheless, we have high hopes for FreedomPop because we like the idea of an innovative twist to the existing wireless broadband business model. We look forward to FreedomPop's beta test later this year to see if this MVNO has what it takes to bring its vision to reality.