Sprint (NYSE: S) MVNO FreedomPop is going to launch the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad mini and Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 as its first LTE tablets and will enable voice service via the tablets. The company is also going to support customers who bring off-contract Sprint LTE tablets to its service.
FreedomPop will sell the 16 GB iPad mini for $319 and the 16 GB Samsung Tab 3 for $199. As with its smartphones, FreedomPop purchases the tablets used and then refurbishes them to sell them via its online storefront.
Users with existing Sprint LTE tablets can also move their existing tablets to FreedomPop.
As with its smartphones, FreedomPop will offer tablet users 500 MB of LTE data, 200 voice minutes and 500 texts per month for free. Beyond that, customers can pay $10 per GB of data or $20 per month for unlimited voice, texting and data.
To be clear, FreedomPop isn't the only carrier offering free data for tablet users. T-Mobile US late last year announced it would offer 200 MB per month for free to tablet users.
In an interview with FierceWireless, FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said the company has long wanted to extend voice capabilities to tablets with small form factors via its over-the-top FreedomPop Free Voice and Text application. "Carriers are going to be reluctant to give voice capabilities to tablets because of the cannibalization effect" it could have on smartphone sales, he said.
Stokols said that the tablets will be assigned phone numbers and users can make and receive calls. Unlike getting a phone number for an OTT app like WhatsApp, Stokols said, the solution enables users to get a phone number without owning a smartphone. However, he noted that if customers have a FreedomPop phone, they can have calls come in to both their phone and tablet.
Stokols said FreedomPop plans to expand its tablet selection in the next few months, including potentially with a Nexus-branded tablet. He said FreedomPop is "expecting some pretty sizable demand out of the gate" for the iPad mini and Samsung Tab 3, and has ordered in the "low tens" of thousands of units. At launch, the tablets will only be sold in markets where Sprint offers LTE service but will then expand to non-LTE markets.
"We're enabling the cannibalization of phones with the tablet," he said. "We're removing some of the barriers that are carrier-inflicted." He said FreedomPop is expecting 20-30 percent of its tablet customers to use the tablet as their primary device.
In other FreedomPop news, Stokols provided an update on the carrier's partnership with KPN's Belgian subsidiary BASE, which was announced earlier this month. He said the companies have finalized their commercial deal but are now doing "technical onboarding" so that FreedomPop can get access to KPN's network APIs and billing system. He said FreedomPop hopes to launch service in Belgium by the end of 2014 but that FreedomPop has plans to expand beyond Belgium to the UK, Germany, France, Spain and the Pacific Rim via additional, unnamed carriers.
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