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With Funding From Intel, FreedomPop Is Set to Launch Its First Phone Next Year

The device, which will carry an Intel chip, will be made by an as-yet-undisclosed phone maker.


Thanks to a new investment from Intel Capital, upstart cellphone service provider FreedomPop aims next year to offer the first phone designed specifically to work with its service.

The device, a smartphone optimized for Wi-Fi, will use an Intel processor, explaining in part why the chipmaker is keen to invest in FreedomPop. Though dominant in the PC space, Intel has had a hard time getting its processors designed into phones. The company has been hoping that a new generation of chips, known as Sofia, will improve its position.

“It may mean more to Intel than it does to FreedomPop in some respects,” FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said in a telephone interview. “We are going to showcase their technology more than they could on their own, for sure.”

Stokols said the move ended up being more appealing to his company than trying to work on its own to get a phone built specifically for the startup. The Intel-powered smartphone will be made by a well-known device manufacturer, though Stokols declined to name the company.

FreedomPop will have some exclusivity with regard to certain markets, Stokols said, but the phone will also be sold in other countries where the carrier doesn’t do business.

Service from FreedomPop is currently offered in the U.S., using Sprint’s network, and in the United Kingdom, through a partnership with European carrier Three. Stokols said the company will announce additional international markets “in the New Year.”

FreedomPop offers users a certain amount of minutes and data for free, while charging for additional minutes and data, as well as for other services. Calls are routed over the Internet, with FreedomPop benefitting when users send data over Wi-Fi as opposed to the cellular networks.

Details of the phone itself are being tightly held by the Intel and FreedomPop, though Stokols described it as aiming to pack as much technology as possible into a device that can sell for less than $200.

Intel is also taking an ownership stake in FreedomPop, as part of an investment round that closed earlier this year. The round, announced at $30 million in June, ended up being $36 million with the investment from Intel and another strategic partner, Stokols said.

Intel, which is announcing the investment at an event for its Intel Capital unit in San Diego, praised the arrangement.

“Mobile consumers continue to look for more ways to save on mobile bills, and a Wi-Fi-first smartphone allows them to use a more cost-effective network,” said Sam Spangler, general manager of Intel’s phone business, in a statement. “We look forward to working jointly with FreedomPop in improving the customer’s Wi-Fi-first experience via this new smartphone utilizing FreedomPop’s Wi-Fi network.”

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