A sim-only service launched in the UK by US based service provider FreedomPop will offer free calls, text messages and data to customers.
FreedomPop will use Three’s mobile signal to provide its virtual network operator service and will allow users to use 200 minutes, 200 texts and 200MB of data a month for free. It is not yet known if there will be a charge for the sim card, but even with a charge the network will provide a good deal to new UK customers. The service will be available to iPads and Android tablets as well as smartphones.
Customers will be able to purchase increased allowance or extra services and will have to pay to go to over the free allowances. Extra services available include the ability to add a second number to a sim card for £2 a month and the option of being able to browse the internet anonymously. In addition, users can pay to roll over unused data to their next bill.
The company already operates in the US and began in 2012, increasing its user base to one million customers, of which around half pay for extra services on top of the free allowances made available to them. According to FreedomPop, it only needs 30% of its customers for to pay for its service in order for the company to be profitable in both the US and UK.
Other companies also offer free voice calls, texts and internet data in the UK, such as Ovivo Mobile who offered an ad-supported service. Ovivo launched in the UK and used Vodafone’s network, but shut down in March 2014 leaving its 50,000 customers without the ability to use their phones.
FreedomPop differs from many mobile service providers in that uses only mobile data. It has an app which can be used on iPhone and Android to make voice calls and send texts which don’t use traditional networks.
After a trial period, FreedomPop will launch in the UK this summer. A roaming service is also planned for Europe called Jetsetter, which will operate in the UK, France and Spain with plans to open the service up to over 20 countries. Jetsetter provides 100MB for free per month for users who wish to use their phone while in another country for work or on holiday and also has the option of extra paid-for services.
FreedomPop has been operating in the US since 2012 and is backed by Skype, Kazaa and a co-founder of Rdio. The Los Angeles-based company has announced that it plans to partner with mobile operators in five European countries including Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile and KPN. The service will be first to launch in the UK.
In 2013, FreedomPop was criticised for hiding its service fees for allowances above the free usage it offers to customers. The fees were removed by the company and now advertises that the UK service is “really free, no gimmicks or games”. In addition it has stated that it is committed to offering truly free basic levels of mobile service.
Those who currently have large data allowances and use their phone for the majority of their communication are unlikely to be drawn to the new service as 200MB of data won’t get them much browsing or app-using time. However, the company is looking to gain customers that currently use a low cost phone plan with a low allowance, and those who are still using a pay as you go style sim card.
FreedomPop is known as an MVNO network (mobile virtual network operator) and a similar service has been launched recently by Carphone Warehouse called iD, however all of iD’s plans must be paid for. iD brings “capped plans for the lowest price on the market” which start at just £7.50 per month for use of a 4G signal.
Those who wish to use FreedomPop’s service when it launches in the UK this July will need to check that their location qualifies to make sure they’ll have signal on their new plan. From data shown on the MVNO’s website, they have good coverage across the south of England, east coast of Scotland and in Northern Ireland.