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FreedomPop offers free mobile data in UK: what's the catch?

Barry Collins
13 May 2015
FreedomPop
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FreedomPop to offer Brits 200MB of free mobile data per month. Find out more here

A company that offers free mobile data, calls and texts is launching in the UK this summer. FreedomPop will offer British users 200MB of data, 200 texts and 200 minutes of voice calls per month, completely free of charge. All they need do is pop one of the company's SIM cards into an existing handset. 

FreedomPop has been operating in the US since 2011, where it reportedly has half a million customers. The free tariff in the US is much more generous, however, with 500MB of free data, 500 texts and 500 minutes. "We found users in the US typically use more data and the alternative plans start at around 500MB," FreedomPop co-founder Steven Sesar explained to the BBC. "In the UK there is a lot of interest in the lower-use end of the market which is where we plan to wipe out the guys offering £5-£10 data plans."

What, you may be wondering, does FreedomPop get out of the deal? It hopes to convince users to upgrade to paid-for services, such as extra data allowances that can be carried over from month to month, and the option to add international phone numbers to SIM cards, potentially allowing a British user to have a secondary US number on the same account. 

Market watchers warn, however, that customers will have to be on their guard to avoid running up extra charges. "The more data-hungry users should be careful about out-of-bundle charges and make sure they do their research before they go over their allowance," says Rob Kerr, mobiles expert at comparison site uSwitch. 

Yet, even the free FreedomPop deal could have several potential uses. It could be paired with a cheap handset to give a teenager a low-cost phone with a reasonable data allowance. Likewise, it allows premium smartphone owners to buy a cheap secondary phone as an emergency backup. FreedomPop also provides an app for Android and iOS devices that allows you to receive FreedomPop calls and texts on any other device, such as a tablet.  

FreedomPop will piggyback on the Three network in the UK, which could be bad news for those in outlying rural areas, where the network's coverage is patchy.

The FreedomPop UK website is open now and supposedly lets you check availability. Actually, all it does is demand your address and email address and tell you it will send more details soon. An underhand way to harvest your contact details without actually delivering what's promised. Not an encouraging start...

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