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