Over the last few weeks there’s been a bit of a shakeup in the US mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) space.
With Sprint ant T-Mobile looking to merge, regulators have suggested Sprint get rid of its pre-paid subsidiary, Boost Mobile. A company called STS is interested in buying Boost… but before doing that, the company sold off its own MVNO, FreedomPop.
Now the new owner of FreedomPop has announced its plans for the service: “Free wireless service. On any phone. On any major network.”
Full details haven’t been announced yet, but here’s what you need to know:
- FreedomPop’s business model has always consisted of providing a small amount of free wireless data per month and then charging customers if they need more.
- Up until now FreedomPop customers could only use certain phones, and they could only connect to AT&T and Sprint’s wireless networks.
- Red Pocket Mobile is a low-cost carrier that currently offers 4G LTE service on all four major US wireless networks, with prices ranging from $10 per month for 500MB of data to $65 per month for 20GB of data (or $60 if you sign up for auto-refill).
Things get a little trickier when you dive into the details — that $60/$65 plan only gets you 10GB of LTE data on CDMA networks (Sprint or Verizon), for example. But the important thing to note is that while most MVNOs only operate on one or two major networks, Red Pocket has access to all major the US wireless networks.
Since the company is planning to keep FreedomPop’s freemium business model intact, that means customers will now be able to use the service even in areas where AT&T or Sprint coverage might not be strong.
That said, I’ve had mixed results with FreedomPop in the past. I bought one of the company’s wireless hotspots years ago, used it for a while… even paid for service on a CES trip one year, and then noticed that I was getting charged a small monthly fee even after I had canceled my plan. It took a fair amount of work to end my relationship with the FreedomPop billing department.
Hopefully things are better these days. But as with anything free(mium), I’d advise proceeding with caution because sometimes you get what you pay for… and sometimes you pay for what you don’t get.