Mobile operators reject Free’s ‘unbundling’ offer

21 Apr 2008

France’s three mobile network operators have reportedly rejected a call by French ISP Free to allow it to use their networks to offer mobile services at near-cost prices, reports Telecompaper citing a report in French paper Les Echos. Free’s latest move is being seen as a fall-back solution should it fail in its second attempt to buy the country’s unsold fourth 3G licence. The ISP is awaiting the outcome of the government’s revised tender for the award of the concession which is expected to be sold off in lots. Free parent company Iliad’s CEO, Maxime Lombardini, reportedly told the newspaper that his company does not want to be an MVNO such as Tele2 Mobile, Virgin Mobile or NRJ Mobile which enjoy ‘little financial or technological autonomy’. Instead, Free is proposing an alternative arrangement under which it would pay a fixed annual fee to its host network provider, and then pay a reduced rate for traffic volumes based on cost price plus an operator margin of less than EUR 0.02 per minute. Mirroring the company’s unbundling arrangements for fixed line broadband services, Free also proposes to be able to interconnect its own equipment with the host operator’s mobile network, especially for subscriber location functions. It is understood, however, that Orange France, SFR and Bouygues Telecom are not interested.