France’s second largest provider of broadband internet access services to the residential market, Iliad (Free), yesterday launched a flat-rate offer for high speed access plus voice telephony, increasing competition levels in an already intense domestic telecoms market, Reuters reports. Iliad’s latest offering means that customers will no longer have to pay a fixed line rental to the former monopoly France Télécom (FT) as the charge will be included in the overall price. The group’s ISP Free will offer the ADSL service, which is available to the vast majority of the French population, for EUR29.99 (USD38.52) a month. At the end of June, Free had signed up more than 1.9 million broadband customers of whom 72.3% were already connected via an unbundled line – bypassing FT.
Free’s flat-rate service is not the cheapest in the French market. Deutsche Telekom’s Club-Internet charges EUR26.90 per month, or EUR29.90 with television included. Telecom Italia’s Alice unit charges EUR29.95 for ADSL, telephony and television, while Iliad’s biggest rival, neuf Cegetel, has its own EUR29.90 triple-play offer. Iliad’s offer could be a pre-emptive strike to seize the initiative before FT moves ahead with its plan to roll out a super high speed fibre-optic network – slated for 2008 at the earliest. The incumbent plans to use the new network to support the deployment of new services such as high definition TV over the internet.