/// RovAir Aims to be the Airbnb of Mobile Broadband Plans

January 26, 2013  |  All Things Digital

Got a mobile broadband device that you only really use a few times a month? Me too. If you’re sick of two-year contracts and monthly fees that go mostly to a gadget that sits idle in your bag until you’re out of range, there are a couple of different alternative options. Some of the prepaid carriers, such as Virgin Mobile, let you pay for data only on days that you use the device. A variety of upstarts such as Niklas Zennstrom-backed FreedomPop and Karma offer a limited amount of data at very low cost. For those that really only need occasional data use, such as for a particular trip, there are even companies that rent out mobile broadband devices. One such company, RovAir , wants to move from renting devices to a new kind of business model. Five-year-old RovAir intends to control a bunch of mobile broadband accounts, and allow people to plug into them only when they need service, at a cost of about $1 per hour, with no membership fees or contracts. But unlike companies like Karma and FreedomPop that buy service on a wholesale basis from one of the major carriers, RovAir’s approach is to open a bunch of standard data card accounts that it essentially subleases to its customers. RovAir says it has a set-up with Verizon Wireless that will enable its model to work, though it didn’t talk details and Verizon declined to comment. RovAir is currently pre-selling plans via an Indiegogo campaign , and expects to launch in about two weeks. CEO Tom Dolan says he likes to think of his venture as sort of Airbnb for broadband, where access is collaboratively consumed by a community of users. But that analogy only goes so far, because instead of sharing devices, RovAir users are sharing mobile broadband service. Each customer will need their own device, either one they own or an older 3G data card that RovAir has acquired on the secondary market. Just how well this will fly with both consumers and Verizon will be interesting to see. Consumers have lots of options these days when it comes to alternate broadband carriers and many of the others have either big name backers, a big brand name ore both. RovAir, meanwhile is hoping to raise $45,000 on Indiegogo. Still, it is interesting to see yet another effort to change the economics of data pricing.

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RovAir Aims to be the Airbnb of Mobile Broadband Plans

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