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FreedomPop's releasing a phone that ignores cellular connectivity, and favors Wi-Fi

FreedomPop, the network that provides both free and low-cost mobile connectivity, has announced it’ll launch a Wi-Fi smartphone next year, which will use Intel’s new Atom x3 processor known as SoFIA. What’s a Wi-Fi smartphone? It’s one that uses Wi-Fi hotspots to provide calls, messages and data, rather than traditional cellular services.

Details on exactly how this will work are slim. The phone will be cheap, and aimed expressly at Wi-Fi connectivity, but it’s unclear whether it’ll still provide 3G or 4G as a back up. Wi-Fi may be common, but it’s definitely not available everywhere, and in an emergency it would be typical not to have a connection.

Related: FreedomPop launches a low-use, low-cost plan for the iPhone

Services on the phone will include those to manage network speeds, and take VoIP calls. FreedomPop users must already install an app to enable voice and messaging, so the Wi-Fi phone will likely work in the same way. In the U.S., it offers a $5 monthly plan to connect to a network of 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide, providing unlimited calls, texts, and data.

FreedomPop says the phone will use Intel’s SoFIA platform, which was introduced in March this year, and designed for entry-level hardware. The 64-bit chip comes in both dual-core and quad-core form, with speeds ranging from 1GHz to 1.4GHz. Devices that use the chip may cost just $50, according to an Intel representative speaking to Cnet earlier this year. Intel says 20 companies including Asus, Lenovo, and unusually, Jolla have said they’ll make phones using the Atom x3.

Intel’s partnering with FreedomPop for the Wi-Fi phone’s launch, and the chip giant has invested an unspecified amount in FreedomPop’s business. This funding will be used to launch the new phone, and when it does, the device will have FreedomPop branding and be sold in several markets. Already established in the U.S., FreedomPop recently launched in the UK, and has plans to expand further into Europe.

We’ll keep you updated with news on the FreedomPop Wi-Fi phone as it becomes known.