Subscribers to new mobile service provider Karma will be their own 4G wireless hub. Anyone can access and sign into their hub, which rewards both users with free data.

Turning smartphones into wifi hotspots lets users share Internet connection

Wireless phone plans have up to now been based on principles of constriction rather than freedom - consumers in the US typically sign up for 2 year contracts to receive discounted handsets that are locked to a single network. The data plan can be used only for this device, and is fraught with taxes, overage fees and proprietary terms of service. To completely offset these industry tendencies, Karma wants to put a mobile hotspot into the pockets of its subscribers, and offset service charges when their share their 4G data connection.

A simple mobile plan that rewards sharing

The Karma hotspot device is $69 and comes with 100 megabytes of data for free. For more service, the telcom charges $14 per gigabyte, or share the data connection. Since the device creates an open wireless network, anyone nearby can use the service - the new person gets their own free 100MB when they sign on with Facebook, and the sharer gets another free 100MB as well. The 4G connection comes from Clearwire’s WiMAX, which is limited in availability, but the combination of opening one’s wireless subscription, potentially crowdsourcing the cost of a mobile plan, and promoting Karma’s service in a viral format is new and cleverly resourceful.

A new model for mobile plans ?

Karma addresses a sense of malaise that many mobile plan users feel in a typically locked down system. As their blog explains it, the telephone industry has come far since its invention, but “[still], you can’t escape the feeling that we screwed up somewhere along the way.” The majority of the telecom industry players only offer expensive and complicated services to their customers, and Karma makes something available that is the opposite of that. Simple tech and simple sharing are the basic tenets of this startup, which is not something previously associated with mobile service providers.

By Ivory King