FreedomPop, the ambitious startup devoted to bringing freemium internet to the masses, has been awfully busy lately. The last time they popped up on our radar the company had just put its WiMAX-capable iPhone sleeves on pre-order, but the team has been up to more than just churning out data-friendly cases.
In addition to working with Clearwire, FreedomPop announced earlier today that it has also inked a network access deal with Sprint, allowing their forthcoming devices to run on both the carrier’s 3G and LTE networks.
Before we go any further, here’s a quick recap on FreedomPop — the service will sell wireless equipment (think USB modems or the aforementioned iPhone sleeve) to users, as well as give them 500MB of free data each month. Users can choose to pay for a higher monthly data cap, but can also transfer that bandwidth allowance between each other as needed, a level of control that traditional wireless carriers have typically shied away from.
Now, Sprint’s LTE network isn’t actually live yet (there are still a few days to go until then), but the inclusion of the carrier’s sizable 3G footprint seems like a critical gain for FreedomPop. As I’ve noted before one of the potential stumbling blocks for the company is their reliance on Clear’s WiMAX network — the coverage situation isn’t exactly ideal for a service that hopes to provide “every American” with free wireless Internet access.
While Sprint’s 3G service is typically slower than WiMAX (your mileage may vary, natch), it should do a fine job in filling out the myriad gaps in Clear’s coverage footprint. Well, for now anyway. FreedomPop marketing VP Tony Miller confirmed to GigaOM earlier today that once Sprint’s LTE network begins picking up steam, the company will slowly shift their focus away from Clear’s service.
Know this before you get your hopes up though– the production process for the so-called FreedomSleeve has already been completed, so the existing version of the case won’t be able to tap into either of the newly-announced networks. That said, there’s reportedly new slew of tri-mode devices capable of running on CDMA, WiMax, and LTE in the works, though it’s currently unknown whether existing FreedomPop users would be able to return their existing device in favor of a more robust one.
UPDATE: FreedomPop’s Tony Miller confirmed to me that users will be able to swap devices “at no additional charge and at any point.”
In fairness, the prospect of bringing free-ish Internet to every person in the U.S. may seem fairly kooky, but FreedomPop has garnered its share of attention. VentureBeat revealed yesterday, for example, that the startup has just closed a $7.5 million funding round led by Mangrove and DCM.