FreedomPop launches in 1,100 Target stores in major retail expansion

FreedomPop is partnering with Target to up its retail game in a very big way.

The MVNO said this morning its handsets and services are now available in more than 1,100 Target stores across the nation, as well as on the retailer’s website. Target will sell FreedomPop SIM cards for $5 and Android phones starting at $59 as the retail giant aims to take on Walmart—a major player in the prepaid wireless retail space—and others just ahead of the holiday shopping season.

“We’ve had enormous success in offering our free mobile services online only, and now we’re opening up our service to an entirely new market with our expansion into retail locations,” FreedomPop COO Steven Sesar said in a press release. “It’s an unprecedented level of access to our free mobile service.”

FreedomPop doesn’t disclose subscriber figures, but the company appears to continue to be gaining traction by using a freemium model to entice users, then upselling them into bigger packages or other value-added services such as additional local numbers for users in foreign lands or a “safety mode” that prevents overage charges. It sells handsets as well as SIM cards enabling customers to activate their own phones.

The company’s free plan includes 500 MB of data, 200 minutes of voice and 500 texts per month. It has raised more than $109 million in financing.

FreedomPop’s move into brick-and-mortar retail comes as competition in the prepaid mobile market continues to ramp up significantly. Network operators and MVNOs are honing their focus on the segment as growth in the overall U.S. wireless market slows to a crawl, and the ARPU gap between prepaid and postpaid has narrowed noticeably over the last two years.

FreedomPop has long used Sprint’s network to provide wireless service, but late last year it unveiled a partnership with AT&T, launching SIM cards and an LTE mobile hotspot that can be used on the nation’s second-largest wireless network.

In August FreedomPop launched a new annual plan targeting users who want more than the company’s basic free service but who aren’t interested in paying for unlimited data. That plan includes 1,000 minutes of voice, 1,000 texts and 1 GB of data a month for $49 a year. FreedomPop also introduced packages that couple a phone purchase with the new plan, including a year of service for users who pay $79 for the LG Tribute or $149 for Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

The company is positioning its new offerings as an alternative to unlimited data plans from major operators that typically cost $70 a month or more for a single line. FreedomPop said those plans are particularly costly for users who consume less than 3 GB of data per month.