MVNO FreedomPop launches freemium mobile WiMAX service via Clearwire

MVNO FreedomPop is officially launching its freemium mobile broadband service using Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network today. The company plans to expand its service to Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) CDMA and LTE networks in the first quarter of 2013.

FreedomPop iPod touch wimax case

Click here for a video of FreedomPop's new iPod touch case.

The company, which has been talking about its planned launch for months, will conduct a beta test in which it will initially limit the number of customers and then expand that amount over the next several months. At launch, FreedomPop will offer users a sleeve that customers can attach to an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4/4S or iPod touch that will provide them with WiMAX service via Clearwire. FreedomPOP will also offer a USB modem, called Bolt, for $49 and a mobile hotspot, called Photon, that will cost $89 and can connect up to eight devices. The device fees are refundable if returned.

Customers will receive 500 MB of data for free each month. They can earn up to an additional 1 GB of free data by referring friends to the service. For each friend a customer refers, they will get an additional 10 MB of data per month for free for every month they are a customer.

Customers can also purchase prepaid data: 1 GB of data costs $10 and 5 GB costs $35. Both price points are below comparable offerings from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T).

In an interview with FierceWireless, FreedomPop COO Steven Sesar said the company's goal is to commoditize mobile data. "We want to get to the point where we're giving away data," he said.

Sesar noted that customers can get unlimited free data by taking part in special offers and promotions. For example, a customer might agree to watch an advertisement video from a FreedomPop partner or participate in a survey. In return, they would receive free data. "It's all different forms and flavors of direct response advertisement types of offers, offers that you generate the free data off of," he said.

Sesar also said FreedomPop is "building a social layer" into the platform, including the ability to share data and have an "online presence" with friends.

FreedomPop said earlier this summer it would launch on Sprint's network by year-end. That timeline now appears to be pushed back by a few months while customers hop on Clearwire's network, which covers 136 million POPs. Sesar said FreedomPop will launch on Sprint's network in the first quarter of 2013. In addition, it will offer more devices. The Sprint deal will last for five years and customers will be able to trade in their WiMAX devices for Sprint LTE devices when they are available, according to The Verge. 

Sesar declined to say how many customers will participate in the beta test. However, he said that "hundreds of thousands" of customers have pre-registered with FreedomPop. He said the results of the beta will determine how much the service expands.

It's unclear how FreedomPop will make money. Sesar said FreedomPop will offer premium services to customers but did not provide details on the specifics of those services. One possibility is that FreedomPop will offer different data speeds to customers, Sesar said. According to GigaOM, FreedomPop is selling a "Speed Plus" service for $3 a month, which does not throttle users' speeds and prioritizes their data traffic over that of non-paying subscribers. He said FreedomPop has tested roughly 115 different kinds of value-added services. "We know we can offer a bold, ongoing value-added service that will account for the lion's share of the company's revenue," he said. He said FreedomPop is working on a VoIP service but that will not be available at launch.

For more:
- see this release 
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this GigaOM article
- see this The Verge article

Related Articles:
Prediction: Failure rate will be high for low-cost MVNOs
MVNO FreedomPop to launch WiMAX iPod touch case, details pricing
FreedomPop inks CDMA, LTE deal with Sprint, raises $7.5M in funding
FreedomPop starts taking orders for WiMAX-enabled iPhone case
FreedomPop to allow customers to share data, earn more through customer referrals
The age of freemium 4G data is here. Will the big carriers survive it?
FreedomPop to offer 1 GB of free data via WiMAX-enabled iPhone case