Free Mobile, the fledgling mobile start-up of French broadband service provider Iliad, today launched its long-awaited cellular services in the country, offering price plans that aggressively undercut those of its three established rivals, as it looks to secure a toehold in one of Europe’s largest telecoms markets. Free Mobile’s launch is the culmination of a six-year odyssey embarked upon by founder Xavier Niel, who has fought tooth and claw to bring his company’s low-cost, high-tech fixed telecoms products business model to the mobile arena.
Iliad’s Free Mobile will charge EUR19.99 (USD25.44) a month for a monthly mobile phone service, which includes unlimited texts, calls and three gigabytes of mobile data. In a press conference, Niel also confirmed that none of the newcomer’s price plans will have a minimum contract length stipulation.
As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in mid-December the French telecoms regulator Arcep confirmed that having audited Iliad’s Free Mobile network, the newcomer was clear to launch as the country’s fourth mobile operator. Arcep certified that fixed broadband specialist Iliad had successfully covered 27% of the French population with its mobile network. Achieving that level of coverage removed the final obstacle for Iliad and allowed it to activate the national roaming agreement it has signed with Orange France. The roaming deal allows it to sign up customers in areas where its own network is not present and sparked speculation that Free Mobile might launch ‘within days’ to take advantage of the Christmas run-up period. Although no immediate launch took place, the fourth operator was required under the terms of its licence to go live by 12 January 2012.