Niklas Zennstrom changed the telephone industry when he co-founded VoIP juggernaut, Skype. Now he's preparing to attack the industry again with the introduction of free mobile broadband from FreedomPop.
FreedomPop today announced that it would partner with Clearwire for its upcoming mobile broadband service. Backed by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, FreedomPop aims to disrupt the mobile broadband industry by providing mobile Internet to consumers free of charge.
FreedomPop had previously named LightSquared as its launch partner, but it appears that relationship has stalled due to mounting complications in the LightSquared camp. The FCC yesterday suspended LightSquared's waiver to build a national wireless broadband network using satellite spectrum. Tests have indicated that the beleaguered company's technologies interfered with GPS and other devices.
Clearwire isn't without its own problems. The company is currently scrambling to build out an LTE network to supplement its WiMax offerings in an effort to improve its coverage in high profile areas like the Bay Area, Chicago, and Manhattan. The transition is doubly logical as wireless providers like Verizon and AT&T are betting heavily on LTE and LTE threatens to become a global standard. WiMax, for its part, has few substantive presences outside of the U.S.
Zennstrom has a reputation for disrupting industries: Kazaa was among the most prominent peer-to-peer media sharing services when it was shredded by lawsuits. It now exists as a wholly unremarkable subscription music service.
Similarly, Joost launched big in 2007 to revolutionize online video and then proceeded to fall. By 2009, it had failed at every pivot and landed in Internet purgatory. It's now only mentioned in pieces like this.
Nevertheless, Rdio, Zennstrom's other subscription music service, has been compelling and competitive in a scene that includes players like Spotify and MOG. And, with 65 million daily users, there's no arguing Zennstrom has had spectacular success with Skype.
Beyond Zennstrom's affiliation, few details, such as how it intends to monetize itself, are known about FreedomPop. Conventional wisdom (and speculation) indicates that the service will be ad-supported, but it could adopt a freemium model, allowing subscribers to avoid ads for a fee.
What we do know is that FreedomPop intends to launch at some point in 2012. Here's hoping it's more Skype than Joost.