FreedomPop takes its free service model to Europe

FreedomPop is launching its free mobile services in Europe this year in what is the mobile virtual network operator's first foray outside the U.S. market.

The MVNO will initially target the UK market, launching services on the Three UK network via mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Xmobility this summer. Another UK-based network operator will be announced shortly, FreedomPop said.

The company's co-founder Steven Sesar told TechCrunch that an expansion into other European markets is imminent, as the company has already signed deals with a six mobile carriers over nine European countries. The UK service includes free international calls to over 60 countries.

The company will offer a SIM-only service in the UK, with the free service covering 200 minutes of calls, 200 text messages and 200 MB of data, Sesar said. This amounts to an entry-level service designed to get users off the ground.

If users exceed the basic allowances, they have the option to purchase additional bolt-on packages that expand their call, text and data usage.

As an example, FreedomPop announced in February that its free U.S. service offering 200 voice minutes, 500 texts and 500 MB of data was being enhanced with a monthly, unlimited voice and text package for $4.58 (€4) per month.

The company is also to launch a new service called Jetsetter this year, which is a free SIM allowing 100 MB of data roaming in the UK, Spain and France. This will be extended to more than 20 countries. The JetSetter Global SIM will work on all unlocked GSM phones with plans starting at $10.

As well as Jetsetter, FreedomPop will add the ability to buy smartphones and tablets to its European service later this year. In the U.S., FreedomPop even began making its own low-cost devices, beginning with the Liberty Wi-Fi-only phablet in October last year.

Kester Mann, principal analyst for operators at CCS Insight, told FierceWireless:Europe that FreedomPop is an interesting company to watch.

"FreedomPop has had success in the U.S. and now it's moving into the UK. The UK MVNO market is becoming increasingly competitive, so as well as competitive deals from the likes of Tesco and Giffgaff, yesterday Carphone Warehouse announced iD, the Post Office said it is to launch an MVNO soon, and Sky will launch next year."

Mann added that FreedomPop is adding to this competition in the market, "bringing something different with its freemium model, which will be targeting the low end of the market, but also maybe users that want a second SIM, back up service. It will be interesting to see what happens."

Led by Stephen Stokols, a former BT executive who also founded online chat and video social network Woo Media that was sold to online dating company Zoosk in 2011, FreedomPop is setting its sights on gaining 1 million users in the U.S. by the end of this year.

Stokols told the Telegraph that his service is "like EasyJet and Ryanair, which charge basic fees on seats but you pay for baggage and extras."

FreedomPop's Sesar also told TechCrunch that the company is already profitable: although 51 per cent of its U.S. users do not pay for their services, 49 per cent do and the company only needs 30 per cent of its base to pay to make its model work.

First launched in 2012, FreedomPop is backed by Mangrove Capital, DCM and Skype Founder Niklas Zennstom's Atomico.

For more:
- See this TechCrunch article 
- See this Telegraph article
- See this PR Newswire release 
- See this GigaOm article

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