Wireless startup Karma is offering a hotspot that accesses Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network but allows users to open it up to the public.
According to a report from The Verge, the company's model works fairly simply. Users pay $69 to buy a mobile hotspot and then pay $14 per GB of data. The catch is that the hotspot is then opened up to the public, and when a new user joins, that user is taken to a page about the owner of the hotspot. Public users attached to the hotspot then can then sign in with their Facebook account to get 100 MB of free browsing. The key part of the setup is that for every new user who signs in, the owner of the hotspot gets 100 MB of free data credited to their account. Karma calls the scheme "social telecom."
"Something is fundamentally broken in the market for mobile providers," Robert Gaal, one of the founders of Karma, told The Verge. "We want to give everyone a mobile, 4G hotspot that lives in their pocket. It's open to everyone, and lets you pay as you go. Best of all it works no matter what carrier or what device you're using."
Data sharing has been a hot topic of late, with much commentary this week focused on Verizon Wireless' launch of its Share Everything plans. However, other companies have focused on the issue as well. Ting, a Sprint Nextel MVNO run by Internet domain company Tucows, has offered shared data plans since February. FreeomPop, the forthcoming mobile broadband startup that also uses Clearwire's network, has discussed the idea of its users sharing data as well.
Karma is Clearwire's latest wholesale customer, and another in a long string of small startups.