With the inclusion of a 4G LTE cellular radio in Apple’s new iPad, it’s a fair bet the next generation of cellular service is going to hit the company’s iPhone line later this year when the new version of the device is unveiled.
But while we wait, at least one alternative has appeared to using your iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S with their slower 3G service. As TechCrunch reports, it’s a new, mostly free service from FreedomPop, packaged inside an iPhone case.
The case FreedomPop provides includes a WiMAX radio, which basically turns it into a wireless hotspot that can support as many as eight Internet-enabled devices, including the iPhone in the case. WiMAX isn’t quite the same as LTE, but it is a considerable step up from 3G data speeds. And here’s the kicker: FreedomPop is providing data service for its customers for free.
Well, partially free. The service itself, which provides 1GB per month of data service, is free. FreedomPop charges customers who go over that 1GB limit, just like the major cellular carriers do, and the rate is basically the same: $10 per gigabyte over the limit. And the FreedomPop case isn’t 100 percent free either; users will have to pay a deposit, although TechCrunch reports it’ll likely be less than $100, according to sources.
Still, that’s a pretty slick deal, especially for users who find themselves burning through a lot of data. TechCrunch says that FreedomPop will use ClearWire’s 4G network to provide connectivity (though the company hasn’t officially announced a partnership yet), which isn’t nearly as pervasive as, say, Verizon Wireless’ network. But it’s nothing to sneeze at, either, with users in quite a few cities across the country capable of taking advantage of FreedomPop’s plan. You won’t be able to use FreedomPop to replace your cellular carrier’s data plan completely, since those plans are generally required for smartphones when cellular contracts are signed, but you may well be able to back the plan down and pay less.
As for how FreedomPop intends to make money on all this, it seems there’s a plan that moves beyond just collecting overage fees. The company intends to add value features later on for which it will charge. The hope is that around 10 or 15 percent of users will start to pay for extra services, and that that should be enough to cover the service for everyone as well as turn the company profitable. Just what those features might be, however, isn’t clear just yet.
According to a story from Forbes, FreedomPop hopes to launch the service by June at the earliest, and across the entire U.S., or pretty close.