46 thoughts on “How France's Free will reinvent mobile”

  1. I admire the service that Free.fr is providing to the French market. Wish we had service providers in the US who realize that the premium channels and VoIP packages are not something to fleece customers with. Service provides in the US have long been taking the customers for a ride in their role as middlemen.

    The rise of OTT services for entertainment and broadcast of sporting events over the Internet will serve to further dumb down the service providers like Comcast and AT&T. Free.fr seems to have seen this coming very early and adapted to the situation. But, I think the US service providers are too greedy to ‘kill the goose laying golden eggs’ for now. They will eventually have to follow up with what Free.fr is doing now.

    Om, what do you feel about the applicability of the Free.fr model to the US market?

    1. I think our legislative system is not going to allow this to happen as the incumbents are too much in control of policy, not to mention the spectrum and last mile connectivity.

  2. i wish someone in south africa took a similar approach, the government owned telecom is making any isp paying insane rates here so no internet is cheap or even close to those offerings

    1. SAGuest — 8ta.com have 10GB per month for ZAR200 pm (18 EUR pm). That is fantastic. Who needs hotspots if you have 3G.

      1. Yes, 8.ta offers a great deal. But its restricted to certain area’s in south africa mainly the large cities.

  3. For those interested in it, here is the final offer by Free regarding their mobile services:

    For 19.99€ per month (15.99 For Freebox subscribers) (no contract) you get:

    Unlimited text messages
    Unlimited MMS
    Unlimited calls to over 80 countries (didn’t say if it’s only landlines or mobile numbers too)
    Unlimited internet with a 3GB fair use (via 4M WiFi hotspots as well)

    Possibility to block this plan in order to be sure not to go over the 19.99€ price

    Calls to France from US: 0.5€/minute (1.10€/minute for Orange)

    As for Mobile Phones: keep yours or buy a new one (completely unlocked for any carrier network!)
    Apple iPhone => They have an exclusive contract. You pay the phone on 12, 24 or 36 months, your choice.
    If you go for 36months, add 19.99€ to your monthly plan. If you go for 24 months add 29.99€ per month.

    They are still 1.8x cheaper with their tariff plan and an iPhone than the other carriers

    Also: They now offer a basic 2€ plan with 1hr voice and 60 SMS for poor people (and free for freebox subscribers)

    1. Thats great.I wish we could something like in Turkey. You can get 1gps to home but only the internet , you need another box for iptv free.fr’s everything in one box is awesome.

  4. the 2€ plan is not only for “poor” people, but also for people who don’t need to be connected 24h a day, and don’t use the mobile phone that much.

  5. Just an update: Free just officially announced its plans:

    – One offer is 19.99 euros (about 25-28 dollars) with 3GB of internet, unlimited calls and texts. If you already use Free as your ISP, you’ll get this for 17.99 Euros
    – an offer for 2 euros per months (3.5 dollars), with 60mn and 60 texts (perfect for old relatives and people using their phones less and less)

    They just crucified the competition!

      1. The discount for subscribers to Free’s Internet service only applies to the first SIM as indicated in the price brochure.

  6. These new offers are not that great in fact.

    – Unlimited phone calls > nobody calls more than 2 hours nowadays anyways. And in France all triple play subscribers get free phone calls from their internet box. Seriously, who needs unlimited calls…? it’s the net, BBM, sms, Facebook chat generation now

    -Free international calls ? > Again you can do that from your Home Internet bo on every provider now. It’s not like i’m calling abroad every day…

    -3Gb of data transfert > Again who uses that I got Tomtom GPS and Spotify streaming along and can’t get over my 1 Gb limit. Again no one actually needs that

    – 19,99 euros/month is OK, but not THAT better than the already existing 19,99 euros plans offered by Orange for example

    Considering how bad their introduction was on the ADSL market with LOTS of troubles, architecture problems and over pricing phone line support… I surely will not jump into this right

    1. I actually have 1 GB per month, and believe me, it’s short.

      For the unlimited phone calls, it depends. I won’t call more than 3-4 hours in a month. But I know some users who will.

      Do you have the link for the Orange offer u talkin about ? Is it exactly the same ?

      About the ADSL offer, I was a user of Orange, SFR ( when it was Neuf) and Free. Ain’t no chan ge, some will have troubles, some won’t.

    2. Obviously you, you must be working for Orange…

      These new offers are not that great in fact.

      – Unlimited phone calls > nobody calls more than 2 hours nowadays anyways.
      … this is a mobile solution ! Guess what ? you can actually do the same and not being stuck at home !

      -Free international calls ? >
      … this is a mobile solution ! Guess what ? you can actually do the same and not being stuck at home ! (bis)

      -3Gb of data transfert > they give you more and cheap…

      – 19,99 euros/month … for 20euros you can get a 2 hours plan or less… with no data and not unlimited calls/sms…

      – Introduction was on the ADSL market with
      You should know that they are using orange network when their own network is not availiable…
      Thanks to Free, we have the best triple play plan prices in the world and it seems to be as well for mobile plans…

      Free, 2 euros for an 1 hour plan and 15/20 for all included ! How can you even discuss this ?

      Em… don’t take me for a fanboy i’m working for SFR in France !

    3. Of course, from the perspective of one that never moves away from home, why own a mobile phone? I understand you think the offers are not that great for you, which is not to say your feelings apply to the majority of the population.

      If we are to judge by the traffic on the free mobile web site and on its competitors, a huge number of people are scrambling to:
      – unlock their phones
      – unsubscribe from their current operator
      – subscribe to the free mobile service
      so this does seem to sound like a very good proposition to many…

      1. In france we don’t have to unsebscribe from our current carrier before subscribing to the new one : the new one does everything to transfer your number for to his network (and it’s free).

    4. It’s a lot better than the 19,99 euros plans offered by Orange !!! For that price you only get 2 hours and 500 Mo of data with unlimited text and MMS. Moreover their network is based on Orange one (70%) so that they won’t have architecture problems (unless orange have them too) !!!

  7. Why you have to bring your iPhone? It won’t work on Android? That one sentence lost respect for the article and author.

      1. Actually it make sense as Niel’s presentation was clearly pro-Apple. Of course it will work on Android but there is no specific partnership for any Androidphone as far as we know.

  8. Interesting article but some terminology issues:
    Femto cell and Nano cell seem to be used interchangeably. Shame they don’t call them Micro cells (one millionth) since they will number in the millions and it corresponds better with Macro.

    Also, is it really just iPhones or smartphones in general?

      1. Great article, thanks!
        Concerning Femto cells, can’t they integrate the Femto functionality into the omnipotent set-top-box? That would be a really interesting tech.

  9. Om,

    This article was amazing and beautifully written. I’m excited about Free.fr’s launch and my question would be has Mr. Niel thought about expanding internationally to spur competition in those markets?

  10. How I wish someone would push the envelope in a similar manner in Canada! Instead our providers just copy US methods and then make them even more restrictive because their is still so little competition for the giants, Bell and Rogers. The CRTC which regulates telecommunications has coddled them for years and simply doesn’t understand that more providers will result in more and better services at lower cost. Vive la France! (No I am not from Quebec!)

    1. We both know it wont happen .Rogers and Bell lobby way too much. Our only chance is other companies like Mobilicity but their service is limited .

      1. Lobbys were pretty huge in France too! Among the 3 old concurrents,
        one (FranceTelecom-Orange) was the old public monopoly, facing loads of HR issues, an

  11. “unlimited Internet though in the same breadth it says limit over 3G/3G+ is 3 Gigabytes
    Actually it is unlimited internet with limited bandwidth above 3Go.

  12. This is great for a large country like France (more uneconomic areas of service). Here in Denmark 20 euros gets you 10 hours of talk, unlimited sms/mms and 10GB of data. Many people use it as their only internet connection. We lack services like Netflix to drive bandwidth growth (copyright issues).

    LTE and 3G everywhere. 25% VAT.

    1. VAT included in 20 euros if anyone in doubt.

      3 SIMs included. I believe 10-20% exclusively use 3G/LTE, growing very fast.

  13. the thing is they are big in fibre. in my country all the telcos have extensive fibre. who will do this? its practically suicide

  14. I am surprised no one mentions Google has this model down the road. Google seats on top of dark fiber like nobody’s business. As for Om’s assertion, well, a fact, the giant Telcos in US will not let that happen. These oligarchs better convert or forever remain conquered. Cheers.

  15. Currently looking for a good cell phone subscription in France, I read this article with great interest! Only I am an idiot when it comes this, so I did not understand all of it. Could somebody clear this up for me, maybe: what are the internet conditions for the €20 subscription more exactly? How much is “unlimited Internet though in the same breadth it says limit over 3G/3G+ is 3 Gigabytes”? I intend to buy an iPhone to be able to skype-call and use ‘viber’ to other iPhones in Denmark (from France), so it is important for me that the internet condition is good.
    Thank you in advance,

  16. hello it is possible bay SIM card for mobile internet in france (I am form Slovakia and I will go to france for 2 weeks and I need internet connection for my mobile phone and iPad too
    oliver (answer to searchweb@searchweb.sk)

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