Frequent travelers who like to stay connected while on the road will want to take note of this story. A company called Karma has launched a new pay-as-you-go data service that provides access to a high-speed 4G data network for laptops, tablets, smartphones and other devices. This isn’t exactly a new concept of course, but what separates Karma from the rest of the crowd is their social-sharing options that allow you, and those who connect to your Wi-Fi hotspot, to earn free data.
The concept is a simple one. New users visit the Karma website and purchase their own personal hotspot for just $79. The hotspot comes with 1GB of data to start you off, which is a solid amount provided you don’t stream movies from Netflix or listen to Pandora constantly. Each additional gigabyte of data will set you back $14, which is fairly competitive with the likes of Verizon and AT&T. But the data plans from those companies aren’t pay-as-you-go, which means if you don’t use up your data at the end of the month, it goes away and you automatically get charged for more. With Karma, you keep your data until it runs out, then you simply buy more as needed.
But Karma users also get the opportunity to earn free data just by being nice to those around them. The hotspot allows you to connect up to eight devices, so when you invite friends, family or strangers at the airport to connect to the service through your hotspot, you’ll both earn 100MB of free data. The more you share, the more data you get. That is your reward for having good data Karma with those around you.
The hotspot has a built-in battery that is good for 6-8 hours and can be charged via USB to keep you going as long as you need. It also weighs just 2.1 ounces, which means you’ll barely know you have it with you when traveling.
The Karma service provides coverage in more than 80 cities across the U.S. using Clearwire’s 4G WiMax network. It can provide connections at up to 6 Megabits per second, which is generally plenty fast for checking email, surfing the web, or even uploading photos to Facebook. It isn’t as fast as Verizon or AT&T’s LTE service, which is often twice that speed or more, but again, it is tough to beat Karma on costs, particularly if you don’t use a lot of mobile data. The service is also offered without a contract, giving you the option to discontinue using it at any time.
Karma’s approach to mobile data is quite an intriguing concept. I’ve used Clearwire’s network in the past and it provides surprisingly strong coverage in a lot of places. It is also consistently fast, although it doesn’t come close to the (more expensive) LTE service that I use now. But considering how affordable it is and the fact that there are no monthly fees, it is tough to beat for the traveler who only needs to connect from time to time. Add in the ability to share with others, something that happens frequently anyway, to earn free data, and you have a service that could be very popular.
[Photo credit: Karma Mobility, Inc.]