NetZero beats FreedomPop to the punch with 200 MB of free WiMAX service

NetZero, a low-cost Internet service provider, released a prepaid mobile broadband service today that runs on Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMAX network and offers low prices--including a tier of free service--and data download speeds to 10 Mbps.

NetZero Hotspot

NetZero 4G Mobile HotSpot

"NetZero 4G Mobile Broadband requires no contracts, commitments or overage charges. Customers simply pick the data plan that meets their needs, starting at just $9.95 per month. They can even try the service for up to one year free," said a fact sheet from the company.

The free service offers 200 MB of data per month. Other monthly data plans are as follows: Basic (500 MB), $9.95; Plus (1 GB), $19.95; Pro, (2 GB), $34.95; Platinum (4 GB), $49.95. NetZero is not marketing any unlimited data plans. Uses pay to top up their service after surpassing their plan's monthly limit but will incur no unexpected overage charges. All of the service plans, including the free one, require customers to purchase a NetZero 4G Mobile HotSpot for $99.95 or NetZero 4G Stick for $49.95.

The pricing follows NetZero's overall pricing philosophy as the company has long offered paid dial-up and broadband Internet service but also provides free, ad-supported Internet access for up to 10 hours per month. In November 2011, NetZero's parent company United Online announced a five-year deal to buy wholesale mobile broadband service from Clearwire.

NetZero's free mobile broadband offering beats startup FreedomPop to the punch. FreedomPop, which previously inked a wholesale agreement with LightSquared, in February 2012 signed a wholesale agreement with Clearwire, ensuring it will be able to launch its mobile broadband services in the second half of 2012. The company, backed by Skype and Kazaa co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, envisions a "freemium" business model in which customers who pay for premium services will subsidize the majority of customers using FreedomPop's minimalist broadband services for free, though the company also has indicated it may accept ad support as well.

"NetZero 4G Mobile Broadband provides secure, mobile, super-fast 4G Internet access for your laptop, iPad, netbook or tablet in over 80 cities across the U.S.," according NetZero, which last week distributed its NetZero 4G Mobile Broadband HotSpot device to interested media for product reviews. 

Interestingly, NetZero's hotspot device allows users toggle their data-speed settings, with the "Lightspeed" setting offering download speeds to 1 Mbps and upload speeds to 384 kbps, and "Warpspeed" offering 10 Mbps downloads and 1.5 Mbps uploads. The company notes that Lightspeed "is designed for email and Web browsing with an eye toward conserving data usage." The ISP's free and basic service plans default to Lightspeed, while all other plans default to Warpspeed.

Based in Woodland Hills, Calif., NetZero is a subsidiary of United Online, which also owns Juno Online Services and BlueLight Internet Services.

For more:
- see NetZero's site

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