FreedomPop is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its free wireless 4G service with the introduction the “first 100 percent free mobile phone service,” it announced Oct. 1.
The company, which works on a “freemium” model, offering free limited services and charging for more robust plans, will offer users 500MBs of data, 500 text messages and 200 anytime voice minutes “free every month for life,” it said in a statement.
The FreedomPop Phone service will also offer unlimited voice and unlimited texting for $10.99 a month, with no contract—a deal that it says can save consumers more than $1,000 a year, compared with similar plans from large carriers.
“FreedomPop’s mission is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, convenient and essential communication services,” FreedomPop CEO and co-founder Stephen Stokols, said in a statement. “With this launch, we’ve just taken our largest step to date towards delivering on this objective.”
The phone service will launch with FreedomPop selling a single phone, the HTC Evo Design, for $99. It plans to add more Android phones later this year, and hopes to eventually support a bring-your-own-phone model.
FreedomPop offered its first product, the 4G Sleeve, in October 2012. Priced at $99, the Sleeve enabled Apple iPod Touch users, formerly limited to WiFi, to leverage Skype and similar voice-over IP (VOIP) apps and have an “iPhone-like experience without signing contracts or paying monthly fees.
That December, it sought to more aggressively disrupt the wireless market with the introduction of the Hub Burst, an $89 modem with which the company offered 1GB of free data a month—or 10GB for $8.99.
In April, it followed with the FreedomPop Overdrive Pro, a 4G/3G hotspot with the offer of 500MB of free data. The announcement included an expansion onto Sprint’s 3G network, “guaranteeing full nationwide coverage.”
In August, it added the FreedomSpot 5580 (the Novatel Wireless MiFi 4082 4G/3G hotspot) to its portfolio, as well as support for Sprint’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, which is now in 151 markets.
As of that time, GigaOm reported Aug. 6, the company had more than 100,000 subscribers, more than 50 percent who have taken up FreedomPop on its free offers, while 40-something percent are paying subscribers.
“FreedomPop is changing the mobile market for forever,” said Stokols, “with the sole intent of bringing better value to the consumer and increasing accessibility.”
In 2012, the voice-over LTE market rose to 3.6 million subscribers, and this year is on track to reach 1 billion, according to Infonetics Research.
“While Skype dominates the over-the-top mobile VOIP space, the market is seeing other applications such as Fring, KakaoTalk, Line, Numbuzz, WeChat and Viber gain in strength,” principal analyst Diane Myers said in a July 8 statement. “But the fact remains that most OTT mVOIP providers are making very little money per user.”
In 2012, the average income per user was $7.13 annually, the firm found, causing providers to look to other business arrangements and partnerships.