Viva la Free Network!

France’s Free Mobile plans to shake up the French wireless business by offering free femtocells to all of its customers, reports GigOm.

Femtocells use licensed cellular frequencies. They work like private base stations, enabling cell phone connectivity inside homes and businesses. They use DSL or cable modems for backhaul.

Free is a French subsidiary of Iliad, which provides internet, landline, IP television and mobile phone services to consumers in France.

Free is currently using millions of Wi-Fi connections to create a large public hotspot network. Now it plans to use to millions of femtocells to create a huge small cell overlay on its hotspot network. Customers can move freely between Free’s tower-based macro network and the small cells, greatly expanding Free’s indoor coverage. The advantage for Free: customers provide the back-haul.

Free’s “unlimited” mobile phone package costs €19.99 with calls included to 40 countries, texts, multimedia messages and internet. The price is reduced to €15.99 for those who use Free for home internet.

Free Mobile became the 4th main mobile phone operator in France and revolutionized the French market with low prices and unlimited calling. It reached 5,205,000 customers, an 8% market share, in its first year, compared to 27.0 million mobile customers for Orange, 20.7 million for SFR and 11.3 million for Bouygues Télécom.

Iliad customers who already have a Freebox Revolution gateway can order the femto module (there’s a €10 (U.S. $13.20) shipping fee), but new Freeboxes will come with the module installed.

Free’s bet has been a success:

  • Free Mobile has attracted 870 000 subscribers in Q1 2013, far ahead of competition: SFR: + 29 000 customers, Bouygues: + 20 000 customers, Orange: -361 000 (+ 85 000 subscribers but lost prepaid users)
  • Free subscriber base has surged to 11,5 million: 6,1 million mobile subscribers, and 5.4 million broadband subscribers
  • Iliad’s market capitalisation has risen more than tenfold since 2004 to €10bn
  • Free has been number one in customer satisfaction for the fourth quarter in a row (TestnTrust).

Free also bought 2.6 GHz LTE licenses in France, though it has no position in the 800 MHz frequency band.

You can’t help but compare Free’s approach to what Dish network could do with their network of 14 million satellite TV dishes.

With a WiFi/2.1/2.6 GHz femto cell box on rooftops, Charlie Ergan might construct a nationwide (triple play) network across the USA — for pennies on the dollar.

Earlier this month Comcast announced it would open up its residential Wi-Fi network, creating a residential hotspot footprint of millions of nodes. Cable subscribers could roam throughout the WiFi nodes at no cost.

Comcast subscribers using the newest wireless gateways can broadcast an additional Xfinity Wi-Fi signal which other Comcast customers can access.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network, Clearwire Board Backs Dish, Facebook Wi-Fi, Subsidized Access Vs Free Access, Free WiFi: It’s a Right!, Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network, Hotspot 2.0 for Museums & Transit, Cisco Buys Meraki for $1.2 Billion, Verizon & AT&T Launch Targeted Advertising, LTE Broadcast Mobilizes at MWC, Kickstarter for Fiber Nets?, Time Warner Cable to Double WiFi Hotspots in 2013, AT&T: 40,000 Small Cells, Microsoft Sponsors Free WiFi in NYC & SF, Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Hotspot 2.0, Cellular/WiFi Roaming Gets Real, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud, Clearwire: On the Hot Zone, Sprint to use LightRadio for Small Cells,

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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