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Summary:

FreedomPop became a full-service mobile operator today, selling its first smartphone coupled with voice and data service. The difference between FreedomPop and your typical carrier is that its services are entirely IP based.

FreedomPop smartphone

Mobile broadband provider FreedomPop has officially become a full-fledged mobile operator. On Tuesday it started selling its first smartphone, the HTC Evo Design, and began offering its first voice and messaging communications services following its usual freemium model: the first 200 minutes, 500 texts and 500 MBs of data each month are free – anything more you pay for.

Though a mobile virtual network operator FreedomPop isn’t following the usual MVNO model of reselling another network’s traditional voice and messaging service. It’s buying bulk 3G and 4G data from Sprint and offering its own VoIP-based communications services over the top. TextNow beat FreedomPop to market with a smartphone and VoIP service in August, but the two MVNOs are in rare company. They’re the first all-IP mobile carriers in the U.S.

FreedomPop plans to offer multiple Android smartphones, but started out with the $99 WiMAX-powered refurbished EVO. Though FreedomPop uses Sprint’s LTE networks for its mobile broadband service, Sprint’s WiMAX footprint is still bigger and finding cheap WiMAX handsets is easier, CEO and co-founder Stephen Stokols said.

“In a lot of places Sprint has both networks, WiMAX is stronger, like LA and NYC,” Stokols said. “We also wanted to launch a $99 phone. That’s hard to do on LTE.”

The phones fall back on Sprint’s 3G CDMA networks, so they’ll work across the country, though the performance of VoIP on 3G might be a bit iffy. Stokols said that FreedomPop spent a lot of time optimizing its VoIP codecs to work on narrowband connections. Though the WiMAX network will produce better call quality, the service is designed to work across the 3G network, Stokols said.

Otherwise it will look just like a regular mobile voice and messaging service. Each customer will get a phone number, which can be used to call or text any other number. The Android’s regular phone dialer has merely been remapped onto FreedomPop’s communications app, Stokols said.

Keeping with its freemium business model, FreedomPop will give its baseline service away for free. Anyone who wants to go over 200 minutes or 500 texts can pay for the extra units each month or sign up for its premium $11 unlimited talk and text plan. On the data side, FreedomPop’s 100,000 customers are closely split between paying customers and those who only consume its 500 MB of free data each month.

As with most of its new services, FreedomPop is launching the smartphone program in beta, allowing it to gradually roll it out to its customers. FreedomPop has stockpiled 30,000 Android WiMAX phones and has its first LTE phones on the way, so if the beta proves successful, Stokols said, it can ramp it up quickly.

  1. FreedomPOP is the worst company I have ever dealt with. Their entire business model is centered around a bait and switch with the word “free” as the bait. Whatever you do, don’t give these crooks your credit card. If you are smart and very careful you can “con the con man” and get free service, but my advice is not to bargain with the devil – you will probably lose…

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  2. I’ve been using their data service for several months and had excellent service, even though I am in a rural location that is not supposed to even have service(North central Oklahoma).

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  3. Rurik Bradbury Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Every month I see a 99 cent charge on my credit card from FreedomPop. It’s small and I haven’t bothered disputing it, but agree with TGB: something shady about the company.

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    1. The 99 cent charge is there if you don’t use 5 mb of data. Just check your email once a month or visit a few websites and you will not get the charge. I have a Overdrive which I use with my laptop and I have enjoyed the low cost of the data plan. Cost is 7 bucks a month for 500 mb and the data I don’t use gets added to the next month.

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    2. FreedomPop removed the inactive fee. You can contact them to remove charges.

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    3. We have discontinued the inactivity fee, and it’s possible that it wasn’t applied to your account properly. In the future, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact customer service. We were actually able to locate your account under your name, and you shouldn’t see it going further.

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  4. FreedomPop gets lots of publicity, but heaven help you if something goes wrong. NO customer service., NO emails answered. NO calls returned…..oh, but they are VERY GOOD at continuing to BILL your credit card….even AFTER you close your account. Then good luck trying to get your money back……..

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    1. We’ve ramped up our customer service team 4x to shorten response times. We’re currently response to emails with 24-48 hours and have 3-5 minute wait times on the phone during our business hours. We’re really working hard to improve our customer service desk. We’re happy to address any billing issues through customer service.

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      1. ^ they’re hot to reply to public criticism :: disproportionately

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  5. Yes, they charge you for inactivity. Even if you owe them nothing, they will cut you off if your credit card expires, then charge you .99 per moth because of the “inactivity” they created. Their terms of service is incredibly complex. They are sketchy.

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    1. We no longer charge an inactivity or active status fee.

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      1. Do you still charge for failing to consume no less than 5megs/month?

        Do you still charge $8.95 equipment return “processing” fee? — which incidentally is mentioned nowhere on your site

        Do you still ship devices with poor default security to easily charge for “overages”?

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  6. I signed up with FreedomPop sometime ago and did not use their service as I found
    their free data allotment too small. In the meantime, they’ve been bombarding me
    with all manner of offers, some of them just shy of being deceptive. Some offers
    offered something “free”, with the actual terms (only the first month free), shown

    in fine print. The straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was their charging
    an inactivity fee for not using any of your data allotment. You give them your credit card
    number, and they charge your card. Long story short, I’ve had it with them. If you
    don’t believe me, look at their reviews on Amazon.com. Caveat emptor.

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    1. We offer 500MBs for free on our mobile devices with larger, affordable plans also available to choose from. The inactivity fee has been discontinued.

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      1. You people lost my trust when you deactivated my account once your activity charge depleted the money I had left in my account with your company. A company that
        deals less than honestly with its customers has lost its customers’ trust. Your company
        did not inform its customers of the inactivity fee in the regular customer enewsletter.
        Trust is earned.

        I have kept copies of your company’s advertising to me, and the web pages, and will be glad to show anyone how your ads keep mentioning “free”, and only in the very fine print below the SUBMIT button on your offers do the actual terms show up.

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        1. > Trust is earned

          And not with “service” platitudes in response to public criticism

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  7. Edward Foster Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Be wary
    Fees on top of fees.
    Selling service without coverage.
    Customer service horrendous.
    You shouldn’t consider this piece a career highlight

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    1. The only costs are for data plans, pay as you go data, and additional services. The inactivity fee has been discontinued. We’ve improved quite a lot with our customer service desk by finding new ways to be efficient and growing the number of team members we have. Currently all emails are answered within 24-48 hours. Voicemails are return same day and phone call wait times are around 3-5 minutes during our business hours.

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      1. DECEIT

        > improved quite a lot with our customer service desk by finding new ways to be efficient

        Call seizure rate is not a mystical new data set. You intentionally kept “service” understaffed.

        > all emails are answered

        NOT all responses are replies. You merely respond to email… often without bothered to read it.

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  8. I just sent back my FreedomPOP hotspot last week after having it for about 10 months. My problem was I couldn’t regularly find a signal for it, even though it showed my area was covered by the network. Unless I carrierd it somewhere with me where I could find a signal and then used it, I was getting the inactivity fee. They offered to waive it when I called to send it back, but I said I just wanted to return it since it’s basically not usable in the areas I’m in. Not rural at all, and have used several other networks ( including Sprint ) from here without issue, but apparently the WiMax signal isn’t cutting it.

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  9. LameBillingPractice Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Hey…FreedomPop. I just looked at my account. You’ve been charging me .99 each month too… Do you not have the savvy to see who you are doing this to, and just stop it?

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    1. We will need some additional account information like maybe a previous ticket number to help us locate your account. Of course this is a public forum, so you may not want to give us your email address directly here, but a ticket number is safe. Rurick (above) used his real name on this forum, so he was easy.

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  10. I have not dealt with FreedomPop, but I am excited at this as I think it may change the high cost of cellphone charges.

    I have read the complaints above, but I have also been burnt by the ‘asterisk’ by many companies before which I blame myself for not reading the fine print. Looks like FreedomPop identified that it was not a good buisness practice and removed it. What I would expect FreedomPop to do is stop charging it for ALL customers once the decision was made. If they continued to charge it to old customers then that isn’t good.

    I look forward to the LTE phones coming out… Hope they can also be at the $99 pricepoint.

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    1. > it may change the high cost of cellphone

      How will increasing the use of a finite resource reduce the cost?

      MVNO pickup slack similar to airlines booking policies

      > for not reading the fine print

      Even if you had read ALL “free”dompop documents prior to signing you would have been unaware of the $8.95 return “processing” fee, among others.

      > identified that it was not a good buisness practice

      No, they have slowly backed away from some FEW certain practices which have burned them in public

      > is stop charging

      They live by the blockbuster fee-profiteering model.

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