FreedomPop to Phase Out Clearwire for Sprint LTE
Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) FreedomPop plans to launch its data-only service plans later this year on Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)'s WiMax network, but once Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s Long Term Evolution (LTE) network is nationwide, the company will upgrade its 4G flavor.
FreedomPop VP of Marketing Tony Miller confirmed its plans to GigaOm Wednesday, noting that it has reached a deal with Sprint to resell its 3G and 4G data access.
Miller tells the site that the MVNO's Clearwire-powered WiMax modems and WiMax-powered iPhone sleeve will launch late this summer or in early fall in Clearwire's 71 markets, but FreedomPop will offer tri-mode WiMax, Sprint LTE and CDMA modems and sleeves by the end of the year. (See FreedomPop Might Offer Cheap 4G for iPod.)
Sprint is launching its first five LTE markets on Sunday. Its rollout will complete near the end of 2013, at which time FreedomPop says it will phase out Clearwire and rely solely on Sprint's LTE. (See Sprint Sets LTE Launch Date .)
Why this matters
The move makes sense for FreedomPop, which was originally partnered with LightSquared , as WiMax is becoming a dead-end technology. Even Clearwire is planning to roll out LTE, which the MVNO said it would explore as well.
But, the network swap is a coup for Sprint, which has been building its wholesale strategy. Signing up partners for its LTE network before it's even launched is good progress.
What's more, Sprint's making good on its promise to be flexible and easy to work with. FreedomPop's data-only plans rely on a freemium payment plan in which users receive an initial bucket of 500MB of data free and then have upsell options to tack on extra megabytes. Sprint is only charging FreedomPop for the gross data tonnage it uses, Miller tells GigaOm.
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