The FCC said it requires additional testing of MVNO FreedomPop's iPhone Sleeve, which the company said could "take another couple months and tens of thousands of dollars." As a result, the company is now offering anyone who pre-ordered the company's iPhone Sleeve before February 2012 a FreedomPop Photon mobile hotspot with 2 GB of free data. The company said that "if/when" the iPhone Sleeve does ship, customers will also be eligible to receive a free Sleeve as well.
FreedomPop said this offer will be available through the end of this month. A company representative posted the news to FierceWireless' comments section, and a company spokesman subsequently confirmed the announcement.
FreedomPop announced last month that it had completed an initial round of FCC testing and that, if the FCC approved the device, it could release an iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 Sleeve sometime this summer. However, now it appears the FCC is requiring additional testing that could stretch on for months and cost additional money. FreedomPop said in January that the unexpected delay in obtaining FCC approval had cost the company and its Sleeve manufacturing partner around $550,000.
Thus, it's unclear if FreedomPop's iPhone Sleeve will ever make it through FCC testing. The company announced the gadget more than a year ago, but it has been held up in FCC testing due to its 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's Sleeve troubles haven't stalled the company's efforts, however. The MVNO announced last month that it is beginning to move its services onto Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) CDMA EV-DO network, a move that will allow the company sell services nationwide rather than just in Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMAX coverage area. FreedomPop said the first device to make use of Sprint's network will be its new Overdrive Pro mobile hotspot. FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols also confirmed to FierceWireless that the company's business model is working, and that FreedomPop is currently "profitable from a gross margin perspective."
Stokols said FreedomPop is preparing for a major push onto Sprint's LTE network later this year, which is when FreedomPop will offer a range of new, "innovative" LTE devices. Stokols said the devices could include LTE-capable cases for Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and LTE clips for tablets like the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, but he declined to provide specifics.
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