On Monday, several FreedomPop users on the Sprint network posted on the Nthcircle online forum that their download speeds appear to have been throttled to about 1 mbps. I ran a speedtest on my own FreedomPop Sprint network phone and my speeds also topped out at 1 mbps. I used to typically get speeds of about 10 mbps with the same phone.
The slower speeds may be related to the recent launch of a new FreedomPop $5/month Speed Boost paid service. PrepaidPhoneNews reader and Twitter user @rpguy found a description of Speed Boost on the FreedomPop Help pages. According to FreedomPop;
"Speed Boost is a value added service. It is available alone or as a part of the Premier Service bundle. Speeds for free plans reach up to 3 mbps, while speeds for paid plans reach up to 5 mbps. Speed Boost can improve and increase your data plan speeds to up to 25 mbps (depending on your signal strength)."
Although FreedomPop says free plan users can expect speeds up to 3 mps without Speed Boost, my speed tests only briefly exceeded 1 mbps at the start but immediately dropped back to 1 mps and stayed there for the rest of the test. That suggests that FreedomPop has set the throttle to 1 mbps not 3. I haven't seen any reports from paid plan users yet, I wonder if they get any more than 1 mbps?
The FreedomPop help article says that Speed Boost does not apply to FreedomPop SIM users. I believe they mean GSM SIM users. An nthcircle forum user tested speeds on his GSM LTE and Global SIM account and achieved normal speeds.
It will be interesting to see how usable 1 mbps data will be. In brief testing I found web page loads somewhat slower, but still usable. I believe that the 1 mbps throttled speed should to be fast enough for on-phone web browsing, email, MMS, social media status updates, music streaming and VoIP calls. But the slower speeds will likely be very noticeable with video streaming, large downloads, online gaming and hotspot usage.
I can understand throttling free plan users under the "you get what you pay for" principle. But throttling paid plans seems counterintuitive. FreedomPop's paid plan prices are nothing special and this change makes them $5/month higher if you want the same speeds as FreedomPop's competitors. With throttling, FreedomPop is decreasing the value of their paid options, which seems like a dumb move for a freemium service. It makes it look like FreedomPop has given up on selling paid plans to free plan users.
With the throttling limited to the Sprint side, this change makes FreedomPop's GSM LTE SIMs even more attractive than ever. I routinely get 15 mbps with my FreedomPop LTE SIM on the free plan. Of course there's nothing to stop FreedomPop from throttling GSM account too, but currently GSM is the way to go.
For more about FreedomPop see our FreedomPop operator profile. To see how FreedomPop paid plans compare with other prepaid mobile broadband operators see this post.