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FreedomPop Starts Public Test of Free Wireless Internet Service

FreedomPop Inc., a startup backed by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, began offering a free wireless Internet service for smartphones and other mobile devices.

The service lets users tap into Clearwire Corp.’s fourth-generation wireless network and use of to 500 megabytes of data for free, the Los Angeles-based company said today in a statement. FreedomPop charges for plans with more data. For now, the service will available as a so-called beta test.

The company offers a range of accessories that let smartphone and laptop users connect to the Internet without relying on their mobile-phone carrier. In the next four to six weeks, it will start shipping iPhone and iPod sleeves that allow the Apple Inc. devices to get on the network.

“In a mobile data marketplace dominated by expensive family plans and binding annual contracts, FreedomPop is delivering a compelling and flexible alternative by offering consumers the ability to get connected on their terms,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Stokols said in the statement.

FreedomPop, founded in 2011, has raised $7.5 million in venture capital and expects to attract an additional $15 million to $20 million by early next year, Stokols said in August.

Zennstrom co-founded Web-calling provider Skype with Janus Friis and sold the company in 2005 to online auctions provider EBay Inc. for an eventual $3.1 billion. Later, a consortium that included Zennstrom bought Skype back, and sold to Microsoft Corp. in 2011 for $8.5 billion cash. Zennstrom also co-founded other startups, including Kazaa, Joltid and Joost.

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