FreedomPop Overdrive: first thoughts

Roughly two weeks ago I received an email that stated that FreedomPop coverage is now available in my area. I've been curious about this company for a while as they offer "free" internet access using several 3G/4G devices. Until recently they only offered 4G connectivity using the ClearWire 4G network that is only available in larger cities (and here in the bay area ClearWire coverage ends roughly in Berkeley, 1 mile short from our home). Since a couple of weeks (say April 2013) FreedomPop peers with Sprint and offers combined 3G/4G coverage.

Upon receiving that email I immediately bought the device (for 39.90$ incl. shipping) and was eagerly waiting for the delivery (which in the end took >10 days). The first trail month of free 2GB of data started immediately upon buying the device and there are only 19 days left now that the device finally arrived. The set-up process is a bit weird as well as FreedomPop offers a feature to find friends with whom you can share surplus data. In addition, you get a free 50MB of data per month for every friend that you add. Naturally there are lists on the internet where you can find such 'friends'. You only have to import them to your gmail address book which in turn is forwarded to FreedomPop. Unfortunately when you search for friends all of them will get a SPAM email from FreedomPop as you leak all your address book to the company. I tried to be clever and removed all email addresses from one of my spare gmail accounts but apparently I forgot to delete some of the 'recently used' addresses and leaked those to FreedomPop (sorry again friends!).

When the device finally arrived I was very eager to get the service up and running. The setup is a bit complicated as you have to start up the WiFi hotspot first and wait until it is able to connect to at least a 3G network. With a quick double-tap on the power button you can display the SSID and the temporary password on the device's screen (it's not 12345 or password as a quick glimpse through the quickstart guide might suggest). When logging in you can then switch to the admin mode using 'password' and I had to execute both "Update 3G PRL" and "Update 3G Profile" until the overdrive was able to connect to 3G. Before the update the device only showed an "Error 67, can not connect to 3G" error message.

Since the update the hotspot has been running flawlessly and a quick speed test shows 0.51Mbps down and 0.39Mbps up which is not too bad for 3G at 10pm. Now fingers crossed for my next conference trip or business trip to hotels where WiFi costs like 20$ per day.