Families looking to shave a lot of money off their monthly cell phone bill have a new option at discount carrier FreedomPop — provided they're also willing to skimp on data.
FreedomPop, which offers contract-free cell phone coverage over the networks of AT&T and Sprint, has added family plans to its list of service options. The base plan offers unlimited calls and texts with 1GB of 4G data. FreedomPop bills that as a free plan, though there is a $5 charge per line. That means a family four pays $20 a month.
In announcing the family plan today (March 22), FreedomPop says it's also offering a bonus 500MB of data for each family member on a plan. So that family of four would really get 3GB of 4G data to share for their $20.
Even for $20, that's not a lot of data to go around. For reference, my wife and I share 3GB of data under an old Verizon plan. We regularly use more than 2GB of data each month, and that's without any video or music streaming. Four people would really have to be careful about their data usage on a 3GB plan.
To that end, FreedomPop does let families upgrade their monthly data allotment. A 2GB data plan costs $15 a month while 4GB and 10GB plans cost $35 and $75, respectively. You'll still get the 500MB-per-line bonus data under these options, though the price of the 10GB plan begins to approach the unlimited plan pricing offered by larger carriers.
FreedomPop's new offering seems to counter those unlimited data plans unleashed by the Big Four carriers in recent weeks. Those plans promise lots of LTE data each month, but at much higher rates than what FreedomPop is charging. The cheapest plan is Sprint's $60 a month unlimited option, which costs a family of four $90 a month for the next year under a current pricing promotion. Even with Sprint's promotional pricing, that's four times what a family of four pays for a low-data plan at FreedomPop.
The argument in favor of FreedomPop's approach is that few mobile users actually need all that data much data. Unless you stream a lot of video and music, you can likely get buy with 2 to 3GB per line — and even then, you'll still probably struggle to use all your allotted data.
Among the major carriers, T-Mobile seems to recognize that unlimited plans may be overkill for every user on a family plan. As part of its T-Mobile One Unlimited offering, the carrier gives subscribers a $10 bill credit for each line in a plan that doesn't use more than 2GB of data.