FreedomPop, a new startup company receiving backing from Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, is working to change the landscape of Internet service providers with new services for wireless and sharing access.
The first angle of FreedomPop’s plan is to provide inexpensive and shared Internet access. Sharing access gives the user credits on the network, with nearly 40 percent of its members currently receiving some amount of free credits. FreedomPop has an iPod Touch case that uses WiMAX to turn the mobile gadget into an Internet device, as well as a 4G MiFi router and a 4G USB dongle for laptops that share and receive online access.
The next step for FreedomPop is to release an “open Wi-Fi” local sharing service through those devices. CEO Stephen Stokols told Forbes that the new feature would let users share broadband access with any other nearby people through two SSIDs in addition to sharing with others on the network. On that note, FreedomPop is launching a home Internet product, FreedomPop Hub Burst (pictured above), which uses Clearwire WiMax for a connection that’s faster than DSL, but slower than cable. As with the open Wi-Fi products, home users can earn free access by adding friends to their network and taking advantage of promotional offers. The company is taking pre-orders on the Hub Burst and expects to ship the product next month.
Stokols said he expects his company to disrupt the other startups looking to alter the Internet provider market because FreedomPop doesn’t have to negotiate deals with large telecommunications companies. It also has undercut other hotspot companies on price, such as Boingo Wireless.
The combination of low cost and free credits certainly makes FreedomPop seem like a sure thing. Right now, it is designed to best handle light Internet activities. Anyone looking for more data-heavy capabilities, like streaming video, will need to pay an extra $10 a month, or sign up for the pay-as-you-go model. It’s still a far more cost-effective choice than most major Internet providers, but FreedomPop will surely be tested by issues of scale and security down the road.