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Karma Mobility to Launch Tri-Band LTE Hotspot

Sprint mobile broadband MVNO Karma Mobility is taking pre-orders for its first LTE based hotspot. Called the Karma Go and priced at $149.00, the new hotspot is a dual mode LTE + 3G EVDO device.

Karma's current hotspot is WiMAX only. Sprint's WiMAX coverage is limited to 88 cities and is scheduled to be shut down Nov. 6, 2015. The Karma Go will work everywhere Sprint has native coverage and data speeds in LTE markets should be faster than WiMAX. Karma Go pre-orders are supposed to ship in December.

Karma Mobility is an interesting service for a couple of reasons.

The best feature of Karma is that your data never expires. Unlike other broadband providers that sell you a bucket of data and give you 30 days to use it or lose it, with Karma you can use your purchased data as quickly or as  slowly as you want. Karma charges $14 for 1GB, $59 for 5GB and $99 for 10GB. If you only need mobile broadband a few times a year while traveling, you can make a single $14, $59 or $99 data purchase last for years.

Karma's other unique feature is more controversial. Every Karma hotspot runs as an open and unencrypted public WiFi source. Anyone in range of your hotspot can connect to it, enter an email address and get 100 MB of data for free. You don't pay for the data you share with others, in fact you get an extra 100MB added to your account every time someone new uses your shared data.

I like the idea of sharing WiFi with others and getting free data for doing it, but I'm a little concerned about the way Karma has implemented sharing. Not only are guest connections unencrypted but the Karma owner's connection is too and that raises security concerns.

Karma says their technology disables file sharing and keeps each user's session separate so that strangers who connect can't see what you are doing. That makes Karma at least as secure as public WiFi at businesses like Starbucks. But Karma also recommends using HTTPS sites whenever possible and/or using a VPN service to encrypt everything. Excellent advice, but good VPNs aren't free and free VPNs are generally slow and unreliable. I don't understand why Karma doesn't do what other sharing based hotspot vendors like FON do which is to broadcast two different WiFi signals, a secure private connection for the hotspot owner's use and a separate open connection that's shared.

Karma Go specs:

  • Network: Tri-band (Sprint Spark) cat 3 LTE, EV-DO 3G
  • WiFi output: 802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz, supports up to 8 simultaneous connections, maximum speed 54Mbps
  • Battery: 1500mAh, 5 hours use, 220 hours standby
  • Dimensions 2.6 x 2.6 x 0.47 inches
  • Weight: 2.3 ounces / 56 grams
Related: US Prepaid Mobile Broadband Plans Compared


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38 comments:

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  1. KARMA has been out for at least a good two years. I'm wondering why it took PrepaidPhoneNews.com THIS long to acknowledge it, even when others have already posted on the Hotspot comparison article about it, urging KARMA's inclusion.

    With that being said, I totally agree that the worst fault of KARMA is the fact that it forces you to expose yourself to security risks by demanding that you keep your device open/unsecured and accessible by all. To me it's just not worth the risk, with cyber-attacks becoming more commonplace and sophisticated these days. The extra 100 Mb of data allowance with each anonymous connection is NOT worth the risk. Plus with unauthorized connections, no doubt your speed would get slowed down, and there is nothing you can do about it. Sorry to say, but when it comes to No-Contract No-Expiration prepaid WiFi hotspots, Walmart's Internet-To-Go is still the winner... even if it's only on Sprint's 3G network.

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    1. internet-to-go will freeze your account for inactivity and it is a hassle to get it back. Extremely annoying in my book. And pushing me to use something else.

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    2. I've had Internet-To-Go for 2 years now and honestly have never had that happened to me. I use it about once every 3 months or so. The 3 Gb for $45 lasts me over a year!

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    3. I read so many bad reviews about internet-to-go that I opted to pre-order the Karma Go.

      Delete
  2. As to purchased data lasting forever, you can get exactly the same result on FreedomPop by adding cash (or credit card) to your account. The cash will not expire and will be used as needed to pay for any usage above your free monthly quota.

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    1. That's true, although FreedomPop's price per MB of 1.5-2¢/MB on mobile broadband plans is higher than Karma's 1-1.4¢/MB.

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    2. "That's true, although FreedomPop's price per MB of 1.5-2¢/MB on mobile broadband plans is higher than Karma's 1-1.4¢/MB."

      On my Hub Burst, the first 1 GB is free (1,5 GB free using "friends" option), and additional data is 1 cent per MB. BUT if you want a lot of additional data, you can turn on a plan for a while, say $10 a month for 5 GB. That's only half a cent a megabyte. Also this need not be paid in advance. Far cheaper and far more flexible.

      Other devices are slightly more expensive per megabyte but still much cheaper overall and more flexible with judicious management of options, taking into account the initial free allowance and the ability to turn plans on and off.

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    3. I looked into Freedompop but decided the hassle of turning plans on and off was not worth it. And I was turned off by their whole sign up process. With no expiration I don't want to have to judiciously manage options. I want to buy some data and forget about it until I need to use it even if that's a year later.

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    4. "I looked into Freedompop but decided the hassle of turning plans on and off was not worth it. And I was turned off by their whole sign up process. With no expiration I don't want to have to judiciously manage options. I want to buy some data and forget about it until I need to use it even if that's a year later."

      You can do the same thing on FreedomPop if you want. Just put cash or a credit card on the account and it will never expire, and it will be used as needed to satisfy usage when free time is used up. I mean it's fine if you want to go with Karma of course but I am just trying to make sure that people understand that the "never expire" feature exists in FreedomPop also for those who want it, but they treat it is so incidental that they do not even mention it.

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    5. Freedompop isn't a never expire, it's a monthly allotment and since you can't really get any information without jumping through a bunch of hoops you have to rely on what others says. From what I've read you have to pay to roll your data over from month to month. Freedompop doesn't get very good reviews for customer service or for their "free" data which people say doesn't end up being free at all. They say they tend to get all kinds of charges they weren't expecting. I read many reviews where people said they were charged even though they hadn't yet used up their total allotment, they were bumped into a higher plan and had a heck of a time downgrading again b/c of such poor customer service. Many people have warned to be very careful signing up to avoid all the surcharges. These kind of reviews from different sites kept me away from Freedompop.

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    6. Cash balances in your FreedomPop account never expire and you don't have to pay anything to keep them . I added $10 to my FreedomPop account over a year ago and $8 and change of it's still there, the rest was used for overages.

      The free 500MB - 1000MB /month that FreedomPop gives you really is free. The free data does expire every month but it gets replaced by a new 500-1000MB allotment. You can pay $4 to roll over the unused portion of the free data allotment but that's optional and I don't consider it cost effective for most users.

      FreedomPop did have more than its share of billing issues initially but those seem to be mostly a thing of the past.

      The Web site is designed to encourage new users to sign up for optional features of dubious value. If you choose the free plan and decline all the free trial offers there shouldn't have any surprise charges and there's nothing you really need to manage or turn on and off.

      FreedomPop isn't perfect but it's hard to find fault with an operator that gives you a substantial chunk of free data every month and has some of the best data pricing currently available.

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    7. About Freedom Pop, I just got this in email. What is the catch? How much does it really cost? Dennis is the FreedomPop expert here...

      Today only! Get a free nationwide 4G/3G device! Connect all your USB devices including PC or Mac and get instant high-speed wireless Internet on the go. Take advantage of FreedomPop’s nationwide 3G roaming and start taking the internet with you!

      Free 500MB Every Month!
      30-Day Moneyback Guarantee
      Nationwide 4G/3G service
      No cables or charging required
      Take with you anywhere
      Earn Unlimited Free Data
      Share Data with friends!


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    8. I didn't get that email but I've gotten similar ones. The device is probably an EVDO/WiMAX USB stick Modem that works with Windows and Mac (drivers are required so it won't work with Linux or Chrome OS). Sometimes these deals ship completely free but usually there's a $4.95 (sometimes higher) activation or shipping fee. A credit or debit card that's not a prepaid one is required. FreedomPop will put a $30 hold on the card that will drop off in a couple of days.

      The 500MB WiMax only service is free provided you decline all the promotional packages when you order and switch to the free plan online before the trial month expires. The devices are shipped activated and sometimes arrive with only a few days of the first plan month left so it's best to switch to the free plan as soon as you place your order. The first time you use more than 400MB in a month your card will be charged $10 to cover potential overages at 2¢/MB. The unused portion of the $10 sits in your account as a credit indefinitely until used.

      See Prepaid Operator Profile: FreedomPop for details of other plans and how to get an additional 500MB/month free with "Freedom Friends"

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    9. get a free device but... "usually there's a $4.95 (sometimes higher) activation or shipping fee". .. "service is free provided you decline all the promotional packages when you order and switch to the free plan online before the trial month expires." .. "devices are shipped activated and sometimes arrive with only a few days of the first plan month left so it's best to switch to the free plan as soon as you place your order."... "first time you use more than 400MB in a month your card will be charged $10 to cover potential overages".

      I see how people end up paying for something they thought was free with all these caveats you wouldn't know about unless you read forums like this one.

      Delete
  3. Yeswap how come Sprint is the main one that does the toggle between 4g and 3g dual mode on phones. I know GSM At&t and T-mo don't do this. Not quite sure about Verizon but I don't think so. Why can't every carrier give us the option of do we want to use phone for 4g or 3g not just Sprint?

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    1. I think carrier's prefer you to use LTE because it uses spectrum more efficiently. Early LTE phones were battery hogs on LTE but with modern chipsets LTE battery life is nearly as good as on 3G so there's not much reason for users to avoid LTE anymore.

      I don't know about Verizon and AT&T, but at least some T-Mobile phones, including my LG G2, let you chose between 2G/3G only and 2G/3G/LTE.

      If forcing the phone to 3G is important to you, a custom ROM Android ROMs and unlocked, unbranded phones generally let you do that.

      Delete
  4. I think the Sprint WiMAX shutdown is scheduled for Nov. 6, 2015, not next week.

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  5. "data speeds in LTE markets should be faster than WiMAX"

    Unfortunately the Sprint rollout is in its early stages, and most LTE markets for now are 1900 only. In these markets 1900 is overloaded and of limited capacity, so you may get 3 Mbps if that.

    2500 MHz will be the high speed Sprint band LTE band eventually, but there is not even a flicker of LTE on this band yet in most markets.

    So WiMax will still be faster in most markets. I get up to 18 Mbps on WiMax and we have no hi-speed Sprint LTE here.

    I think this device is premature and most users will be better of sticking with WiMax for now, except in the few cities where hi-speed Sprint LTE has been rolled out.

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  6. 14.00 a for a gigabyte of data on Sprint's network!? I don't think so, Tim.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Matt, you don't have to worry too much. This is available in only 88 cities out of the 19,429 we have currently in the US.

      It makes T-Mobile seem like a 100% universal carrier in comparison.

      Delete
  7. Just pointing out a couple of typos. $99 for $100 and "you can make make"
    Still don't know how much data $99 buys.

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  8. If this hotspot supports 802.11-N WiFi. Why is the maximum speed only 54 Mbps?

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    1. No idea.Those are the published specs on the Karma site. Perhaps some aspect of the hardware limits data rates.

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    2. That is the current max speed of Spark (on devices like this one that lack carrier aggregation).

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    3. Carrier aggregation. What's that?

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    4. Carrier aggregation is a technology that's part of LTE Advanced. It combines multiple channels on different frequencies. for example, a 700 Mhz channel and a1700 Mhz channel to achieve higher speeds than are possible with any one of the single channels.

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    5. Isn't that what Sprint Spark is?

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    6. Spark is tri-band LTE with or without carrier agregation.

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    7. How does tri-band LTE work without aggregation?

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    8. The phone or hotspot uses the available band with the best performance.

      I don't think Sprint has enabled carrier aggregation yet except for some test sites in the Chicago area

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  9. I was previously enticed by Karma to pre-order this device while it was $50 off, and I almost went for it. What made me back away from it was the reality that an unknown person could use this device to access something illegal, and the digital pathway will lead right back to me, the device owner. No thanks!

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  10. Shipping date of the new Karma Go LTE mifi devices is delayed until April 10th. In testing prototypes they found they had to install more memory. This meant delays because of the minor product redesign and rescheduling production in China, and getting official tests done. They are posting the progress towards production and testing on their blog.

    I ordered a Karma Go device a couple of weeks ago. They still have the advance order price of $99 and I got another $10 off by using a Karma referral code (no shortage of the referral codes on the web). Think $89 is a good deal for a new LTE mfii device...although I'll have to wait at least a couple of months to receive it.

    Don't intend to use this as my sole mifi device and am also wary of the security issues.

    I have an AT&T postpaid LTE mifi device and Karma will be a backup on the Sprint network. The Karma sharing is a big plus for me because sometimes I'm in an area where there is no public wifi or private wifi is either expensive, slow and/or unreliable. That way I can give some data to others without giving them access to my AT&T device or any prepaid Karma data I buy. Plus I'll get a Karma kickback for anyone who hops on the Karma device.

    Would not have considered Karma in the past, but they finally allowed just an email signup instead of requiring Facebook log-ins, and are releasing a LTE device with 3g fallback instead of the wimax only device that a technological dead-end with somewhat limited coverage.

    On the open access potential security issues, I'll have to be cautious when using it for web browsing. I'll either have to use https or VPN service when I need to do something secure, or just use it more for general web surfing where no financial transactions, personal information or usernames/passwords are being used.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The Karma Go LTE mifi device is delayed again....
    They now estimate shipping sometime in May. According to the Karma blog, the factory in Shenzhen, China is set for production, but they are still waiting on final US LTE testing until they get the green light for production.
    Given the steep advance order discount ($89 after $50 early order discount and $10 referral code discount), and that this will just be a backup and guest mifii device for me, I'll just wait it out. My primary home/travel broadband device is an AT&T LTE mifi device on a postpaid plan with a corporate discount.
    This isn't the first time I've had a delayed mifi device. FreedomPop had a similar issue a while back when they introduced their LTE mifi 500 device and delayed shipment while a supplier issue was worked out. In FreedomPop's case, they gave customers an extra one month data bonus for patiently waiting. Wonder if Karma will do something similar and give a small data bonus (or maybe a free accessory).

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  12. And the Karma Go LTE mifi device *finally* shipped. Got mine last night by UPS.
    Nice lightweight small unit. Activated and speed tested it today at 16.89 down, 5.76 up, 64 ms ping.
    They are occasionally running a double data promotion for their 5 gb and 10 gb refills(current one ends Aug 31). Decent deal for Sprint LTE since there's no expiration date (so long as Karma sticks around; which I hope they do). Got 20 gb for $99 with their double data; which is about half the per gb price of my AT&T postpaid discounted data (although to be fair AT&T has a bigger native network that includes rural areas like near my home).
    Haven't had any guest users on the Karma open ports yet but it will be nice to be able to provide mifi access without having them dip into my data allotment (actually will be the reverse since they give a 100 mb free nibble to any new users and the mifi device owner).

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  13. Karma Go is a great product. It works as advertised! I was able to get $10 off when i purchased the product by using the link: https://yourkarma.com/invite/scott79979

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  14. Karma adds $50 Unlimited Option.

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