FreedomPop raised eyebrows with its December launch of a wireless in-home modem that offers 1GB of free data per month via Clearwire's 4G network. At the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 8, FreedomPop sweetened the deal, announcing a partnership with TextPlus that will enable the company to add free text and calling services to its Internet offering.
"Our philosophy at TextPlus that anyone should have access to free and low-cost mobile communications aligns perfectly with FreedomPop's free mobile data offering," Scott Lahman, founder and CEO of TextPlus, said in a statement.
TextPlus and FreedomPop, he added, "are changing the way people communicate worldwide by giving them unparalleled choice and access to free and affordable texting, calling and data services."
The services are free only at the lowest use levels, but even for those people requiring more than 1GB of data per month—an amount that roughly corresponds to reading 2,000 emails with attachments, streaming 200 songs, video Skyping for four hours or viewing 3,000 rich Web pages—pricing is very competitive.
Cable providers such as Comcast and Time Warner that offer Internet and voice over IP (VOIP) services aren't likely to be pleased. Neither are the traditional telecom companies or even the wireless carriers, which have been working aggressively to encourage consumers to connect more devices to their networks.
In 2012, both Verizon Wireless and AT&T began offering shared data plans with the hope that more users will connect tablets to their networks instead of relying solely on WiFi.
FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said the new partnership with TextPlus represents a "large step forward in offering consumers a true, free alternative to expensive mobile voice and data plan." The two companies, he added, "represent a new kind of telecom service based on principals established on the Web. We are on a clear path to delivering affordable and convenient telecom services to everyone."
In the first quarter of this year, FreedomPop will begin offering three tiers of text voice plans: a free plan, a comprehensive plan and an unlimited texting plan with 1,000 voice minutes for $15 a month.
On Dec. 12, FreedomPop introduced its Hub Burst modem, describing it as free, since anyone who returns it within the first year can be reimbursed the $89 they must pay to receive it. In that announcement, the company said it would offer "a minimum of 1GB of free data each month," and that prices for those requiring more data would start at less than $10 a month—"80 percent cheaper than today's DSL or cable offerings."
Back in October, FreedomPop had introduced a public Beta plan that guaranteed a minimum of 500GB of 4G service a month, with users able to "earn up to 1GB of data each month by adding friends to their network."
Weeks later, it introduced an iPod Touch 4G Sleeve, which snaps to the back of the fourth-generation iPod Touch, enabling it to function like an iPhone. It now also offers a Sleeve for the iPhone 4 and 4S and MiFi and USB dongles for home broadband devices.
As of the announcement of its partnership with TextPlus, it seems FreedomPop is still either working out the details of exactly how much data it will offer for free or there's fine print that consumers will want to track down before signing on. With the new text and voice plans, says the Jan. 8 statement, coupled with "FreedomPop's 500MB of free 4G data, consumers will be able to save thousands of dollars compared to their existing cell phone plans."