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NEW YORK (
FreedomPop wants to give you free, high-speed, 4G wireless Internet service. Seriously! But there's a slight catch.
The Los Angeles-based company is a new start-up from Niklas Zennstrom, one of the original co-founders of Skype - now owned by
Microsoft(MSFT - Get Report).
Now in beta, FreedomPop really is offering free wireless, 4G Internet data services - up to a point. And that point is 500 MB per month. That should be good enough if you stick to light Web browsing and checking your e-mail.
Need more? The company's 2 GB "Casual Plan" is $17.99 a month and their "best deal", the 4 GB "Premiere Plan" will set you back $28.99 a month. If you go over your data limit it will cost you an additional penny or two per MB. Add $2.99 to any plan for their "guaranteed fastest upload speeds all day, every day."
Additionally, FreedomPop charges a "rental fee" for the hardware you'll need to actually use the service. They're offering a free 4G USB stick with a $49 refundable security deposit and a free 4G hotspot (which supports as many as 8 connections at a time) with an $89 refundable deposit.
At the start, FreedomPop will be utilizing
Clearwire's(CLWR) WiMAX, 4G data services. But the company plans to switch to faster LTE data service as soon as
Sprint's(S) rollout can support it - reportedly early in 2013.
In addition, FreedomPop plans to sell a number premium services (such as device protection) as well as offers of awards of extra megabytes of data if you watch a short video or visit a specific Website.
Finally, some possible good news for smartphone fans. The company is also thinking about marketing 4G add-on smartphone cases for popular models such as the iPhone and maybe some Android models.
--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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