U.S. based mobile operator, FreedomPop, has extended its services to the UK in the first phase of a major international expansion, offering free 4G for the first time.
FreedomPop will run as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), buying capacity on the Three network and using Three’s mobile masts and infrastructure. FreedomPop customers will pay a one off setup fee of £7, after which they will be entitled to a free monthly quota of 200 voice minutes, 200 texts, and 200MB of 4G data. Once the monthly allowance has been used up customers will be able to buy additional data at a cost of 1.5p per MB.
Customers that regularly require higher allowances can buy monthly packages that cost between £4.99 and £16.99. Example plans include 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 1GB 4G data for £8.99 per month, or unlimited calls and text messages plus 2GB 4G data for £11.99 per month. Unused data can be rolled over to the following month. The operator aims to keep costs low by sending as much traffic as possible over Wi-Fi networks rather than mobile networks.
Customers will also be able to earn additional minutes, texts, and data by taking part in third-party market research surveys. This will require some time, and customers will need to provide a certain amount of personal information but they can earn unlimited allowances.
The model has already had some success in the U.S. where around half of FreedomPop’s customers regularly buy additional allowances. In order to be cash flow positive in the UK the new service is expected to need around 50,000 subscribers, and the company claims that a quarter of a million UK mobile users have already expressed an interest and that they are likely to have to cap subscriptions to begin with. The first 10,000 subscribers will receive 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 1GB data for free.
To begin with users will only be able to subscribe to FreedomPop online, but it is talking to various high-street retailers about selling its services. When customers receive their FreedomPop SIM they simply insert it into their device and download the FreedomPop app from Google Play or the iOS App Store. The same phone number can be used on any device including tablets. The service is available across the UK and there is a coverage map on its website that users can check before subscribing. As the service expands internationally there will be no roaming fees.
According to FreedomPop “Free is really Free, no gimmicks or games. FreedomPop believes mobile access is a right and not a privilege and is committed to offering basic levels of mobile service 100% truly free. If you need more than basic, we hope you will pay for our bigger plans that are priced well below the market.”
FreedomPop was founded in 2011 by CEO Stephen Stokols, who formerly worked for BT. Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT was formerly an advisor to FreedomPop, but he has stepped down as a UK launch means that the business will be in direct competition with BT’s own 4G offering.