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FreedomPop introduces nationwide 3G, $40 hot spot

The company's new Overdrive Pro supports both 3G and 4G connectivity via Sprint's network, which covers most of the country instead of just select cities.

The FreedomPop Overdrive Pro is a mobile 3G/4G hotspot that costs just $39.99 and comes with 500MB of free data per month.
The FreedomPop Overdrive Pro is a mobile 3G/4G hotspot that costs just $39.99 and comes with 500MB of free data per month.

For a while now I've been wanting to test-drive FreedomPop, the wireless Internet provider that offers, among other things, 500MB of free mobile data per month.

Alas, because it's a 4G-only service based on Clearwire's WiMAX network, there's no coverage in my area.

That changes today with the introduction of FreedomPop's new Overdrive Pro mobile hot spot, which offers both 4G and 3G coverage via Sprint.

In other words, now I can get in on the free-data action. The Overdrive Pro costs $39.99 and allows for up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices to connect at once. You'll need to choose a service plan at the time of purchase, though you can change it at any time -- and there's no contract involved.

The Basic plan costs nothing, but gives you 500MB of data per month. Curiously, it's 4G data only; if you want the "backup access" to 3G, which FreedomPop refers to as nationwide roaming, you'll need the $3.99/month Pro plan (which still limits you to 500MB). The real deal is FreedomPop Premium, which includes 2GB of 3G/4G data for $19.99 -- a far better price than you'll get even from the likes of Virgin Mobile, which charges $35 for more or less the same plan.

Assuming you're wanting to keep things cheap, though, you can stick with a 500MB plan and pay just 2 cents/megabyte for additional data. I consider that a sweet option for folks like me, who travel infrequently and only occasionally find themselves without Wi-Fi.

That said, you can try Premium (or Pro) free of charge for the first month, which is obviously the smart choice. And you get an extra 1GB of bonus data when you activate your service.

What really makes FreedomPop interesting is its social game: You earn another 50MB of data for each friend you refer, for a maximum of 500MB extra no-charge data per month. (Purely in the interests of science, my referral link will be forthcoming.) You'll also be able to earn extra data via forthcoming "partner promotions."

Another bit of good news: owners of the FreedomPop 4G-only Photon hot spot can swap that device for an Overdrive Pro at no charge.

Assuming everything works as advertised, it's hard to beat a $40 Wi-Fi hotspot and 500MB of free data. There's an Overdrive Pro on its way to me as I type, so watch for a more hands-on review in the next week or two. Until then, what do you think of FreedomPop's new offering?