FreedomPop's freemium wireless service embraces Sprint's LTE network

Free wireless service from FreedomPop is about to get faster, with a new hotspot that runs on Sprint's 4G LTE network.

FreedomPop is essentially a "freemium" wireless service that piggybacks on Sprint's network. You pay for the wireless hotspot, and FreedomPop offers 500 MB of free data per month. You can then pay for additional data—either as a monthly plan or as you go—along with other services, such as usage alerts.

Until now, FreedomPop has only worked with slower WiMax and 3G networks. But the company's new Freedom Spot MiFi hotspot, which costs $149 up front, supports the theoretically faster 4G LTE. According to The Verge, FreedomPop is claiming average data speeds of 6 mbps to 8 mbps.

Working out the kinks

In PCWorld/TechHive's latest speed tests, Sprint's LTE network provided slower average speeds of 4.32 mbps—the slowest of all the four major carriers. In fact, the LTE speeds measured by PCWorld/TechHive aren't even much of an improvement over Sprint's WiMax network as measured in 2011. But Sprint says it's still building its LTE network, and faster speeds may be found in suburbs rather than the city centers where we tested.

FreedomPop, meanwhile, has said that it's trying to work out some of the customer service issues and complaints that have nagged the company since launch. Users are no longer charged a $0.99 hidden fee for every month that they do not consume any data, and FreedomPop says it's doubling its customer service headcount.

Users should be aware, however, that FreedomPop automatically charges $10 to “auto top up” data as users approach their monthly limits. This option can be disabled in the user's account settings. By default, FreedomPop also attempts to tack on premium services by default during the sign-up process, so users need to pay close attention at each step while ordering a new hotspot.

With those caveats in mind, FreedomPop can be a good way to get free or cheap wireless data on tablets, laptops and other connected devices, especially now that faster service is on the way.

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