Innovations That Matter

Portable 4G hotspot rewards users for sharing mobile internet connections


The Karma hotspot is a square pocket-sized device that enables users to share their 4G internet connections in return for free credit.

The restrictive data plans offered by some mobile providers have brought about attempts to develop a more open approach to internet connectivity for smartphone and tablet users. We recently covered San Francisco-based Open Garden, whose app turns devices into short-range routers to share connections across networks. Providing a similar service, the Karma portable 4G hotspot aims to monetize the sharing of connectivity. Priced at USD 69, the Karma hotspot is a square pocket-sized device that receives 4G internet from the Clearwire network, which currently operates in 80 major US cities. Users pay USD 14 for each gigabyte of data they consume on a pay-as-you-go basis. When they carry the device with them, others can connect to it using their smartphone or tablet and sign into the service through Facebook. Each time this happens, the person connecting gains 100MB free use and the carrier is also rewarded with 100MB, credited to their Clearwire account. According to a report, the team behind Karma have just under USD one million backing from private investors and have been in talks with other major mobile network providers. It will place its first 500 hotspots onto the market in New York City before the end of the year. Considering the lofty prices charged for tariffs that can leave customers paying for unused internet access, Karma aims to provide a way to incentivize the fair allocation of data. Mobile operators – is this an attractive proposition?
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