After a delay of more than a year, FreedomPop's iPhone Sleeve could finally be released

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) MVNO FreedomPop announced today that its long-delayed Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone Sleeve may soon be released commercially. The company said the FCC has completed testing the gadget and that "a decision by the FCC is expected by the end of April."

freedompop iphone sleeve

FreedomPop's iPhone Sleeve

"Because of the longer than anticipated wait, any FreedomPop user that pre-ordered the iPhone 4 Sleeve will be given an additional 2 GB of free 4G data as a special thanks for their continued support and patience during this time," FreedomPop said.

Further, the company also said that it has been working with the FCC so that its iPhone 4 Sleeve can be retrofitted to accommodate the iPhone 5 using the same internal components and with minimal additional FCC testing. This means, FreedomPop said, that the company should be able to sell an iPhone 5 Sleeve sometime this summer--contingent on approval of the 4S and 4 version.

The news could finally bring to a close the Sleeve's long and troubled road to the market. FreedomPop began taking pre-orders for the WiMAX-capable iPhone Sleeve more than a year ago, but the device has been stuck in the FCC testing process due to the gadget's unique design. As FierceWireless reported in January, FreedomPop's iPhone Sleeve places the Sleeve's WiMAX radio right next to the iPhone's cellular radio. The company said the FCC has never tested a device with that radio-against-radio design, which required the agency to conduct extensive testing of the gadget--thus delaying the commercial release of FreedomPop's Sleeve for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4. (FreedomPop currently sells a Sleeve for the iPod touch, which does not have a cellular radio.)

FreedomPop said in January that the unexpected delay in obtaining FCC approval has cost the company and its Sleeve manufacturing partner around $550,000.

But FreedomPop's iPhone Sleeve is just one of the first tentative steps in the company's go-to-market strategy. FreedomPop currently offers UBS modems, portable hotspots and a home router called Burst. The company's business model is designed around the "freemium" concept, whereby FreedomPop offers users a package of free data (between 500 MB and 1 GB per month, depending on the device) and then earns revenues from sales of additional data and products and services like increased download speeds and usage notifications. FreedomPop has not disclosed how many customers it has, but earlier this year the company raised $4.3 million in new funding.

Later this year FreedomPop plans to launch service on Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) LTE network, and also plans to expand its lineup of devices. Specifically, the company plans to release LTE-capable cases for popular Android phones in a bid to dramatically expand its addressable market into the Android smartphone realm.

For more:
- see this FreedomPop post

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