FreedomPop debuts $5 unlimited Wi-Fi plan in 200 cities

FreedomPop announces it will now provide a Wi-Fi plan for $5 a month, which will allow for unlimited talk, text, and data at its hotspots.

Paul Sakuma
File - Customer holds an Apple iPhone 4G from AT&T, left, and Verizon Apple iPhones at an Apple store in Palo Alto, Calif.

FreedomPop, a “new wave telecom company,” revealed Wednesday that customers can now purchase unlimited access to Wi-Fi for $5 a month.

The company, known for providing free cellular service through Sprint’s network, said the plan will work with smart phones and tablets and will give users unlimited access to talk, text, and data at 10 million hotspots around the US.

The plan is only available for Android devices, but as Stephen Stokols, the chief executive and co-founder, told TechCrunch, an iOS version is “in the works” and should roll out in a few weeks. There are currently no plans to adapt it for Windows phones.

With an Apple-compatible version, “it will take longer to get the auto-connect functionality on par with Google’s,” Mr. Stokols said in the TechCrunch interview. “iOS is far more closed, whereas Google has committed to make Wi-Fi as seamless as possible, something else that should scare carriers.”

The company is marketing the plan to anyone interested in a Wi-Fi connection, including those with deactivated phones or Wi-Fi only devices. FreedomPop describes itself as an alternative to expensive data plans from traditional carriers.

"As wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T commit billions to build LTE networks, companies like Google and Comcast are investing in Wi-Fi-based networks to deliver mobile data access to consumers at a lower cost," Steven Sesar, FreedomPop's chief operating officer, said in a statement to CNET. "Now FreedomPop is the first mobile carrier to offer access to the largest nationwide Wi-Fi network with talk, text and data, giving cash strapped consumers an alternative to high priced LTE data plans, or a way to simply cut down on their cellular data usage."

A spokesman told CNET that the company is aiming to increase the number of hotspots to 25 million by the second fiscal quarter and is hoping to have 90 percent Wi-Fi coverage in America's top 200 metro areas by the end of the year.

FreedomPop is moving one step closer to its goal by partnering with a wide variety of companies that already offer free Wi-Fi, such as Starbucks, McDonalds, and Best Buy.

FreedomPop is a sort of piggyback company that relies on existing networks to function. The company is a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) of Sprint and “leases the necessary voice and data spectrum from other mobile carriers.” The company is now applying this model to Wi-Fi hotspots, instead of just cellular towers.

FreedomPop has been looking to make a name for itself in the telecommunications market since its launch in 2012. Its website sells plug-in devices for broadband Internet at home, pre-owned devices, and data plans. The company is even marketing to those with concerns about privacy. The “Snowden Phone,” or as it is formally known, the Privacy Phone, is an upgraded Samsung Galaxy S2 that comes equipped with VPN (virtual private network) for anonymous browsing and has “encrypted voice and online security to protect yourself from hackers and spyware.”

The success of FreedomPop’s new model has yet to be determined, but with its low prices and high promises, this cheap Wi-Fi service could find an audience among city dwellers.

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