FreedomPop to offer 1 GB of free data via WiMAX-enabled iPhone case

FreedomPop, the startup backed by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom that aims to provide mobile broadband on a "freemium" model, will launch a case for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S that will allow customers to share a mobile WiMAX connection with up to eight devices, including the iPhone, a FreedomPop executive confirmed. 

Tony Miller, FreedomPop's vice president of marketing, told FierceWireless that the case will offer customers "free 4G data. It will be available for our launch, a date which we have not publicly committed to." He said the case will be free but require "a 100 percent fully refundable deposit so that we are protected from abuse." Miller said FreedomPop is aiming to make the deposit around $75. 

Miller confirmed that customers will get to use 1 GB of data free, with an overage charge of $10 per GB beyond the first free 1 GB. The blog TechCrunch first reported the news, citing an unnamed "high-level source inside FreedomPop," and said that the gadget will have 30 hours of battery time and an integrated WiMAX radio.

The device would presumably connect to Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMAX network, which covers around 130 million POPs; FreedomPop struck a wholesale agreement with Clearwire in February. A Clearwire spokesman declined to comment and referred questions to FreedomPop.

The concept of embedding wireless functions into an iPhone case isn't new--Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) in November 2010 launched the ZTE-made Peel device, which gave iPod touch users access to Sprint's EV-DO network. Moreover, FreedomPop isn't the first to promise a free allotment of data in order to rope in subscribers--NetZero just this week announced it will offer 200 MB per month for free through its own MVNO deal with Clearwire.

FreedomPop will take advantage of Clearwire's WiMAX network but has also indicated that it will also use Clearwire's LTE Advanced network, which Clearwire expects to launch next year. FreedomPop has said it will pay wholesale rates to Clearwire--most likely on a per GB basis--but did not provide any specific details of the arrangement. Last month, FreedomPop "guaranteed" that it would launch its service in the second half of 2012, though it did not give a specific date.

Interestingly, in a press release issued Wednesday morning, FreedomPop divulged more about its planned partners. "FreedomPop will initially use Clearwire's 4G mobile broadband network though an additional partner network will be announced before its launch," the company said. "Although a specific launch date has not been announced, FreedomPop is committed to launching in 2012 to over 270 million people." It's unclear which other carrier FreedomPop might buy wholesale access from, but since the company said it was taking aim at Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), those carriers are likely out of the running.

For more:
- see this release
- see this TechCrunch post

Special Report: FreedomPop founder cagey about revenue model for 'free' mobile broadband service

Related Articles:
NetZero beats FreedomPop to the punch with 200 MB of free WiMAX service
FreedomPop looks beyond LightSquared for wholesale access
Skype founder promises free wireless broadband through FreedomPop

Correction, March 21, 2011: This article originally incorrectly stated FreedomPop's planned overage charges. It will be $10/GB beyond the original free 1 GB of data.