French telco Iliad, which operates its wireless services in the country under the Free Mobile banner, has announced the commercial deployment of its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network using the 2.6GHz frequency band. According to a press release, the company’s network infrastructure has been upgraded to all-IP next generation network (NGN) technology, with more than 700 LTE-enabled sites covering over 1,000 towns (as at 1 December 2013). Free also plans to increase the number of 4G sites by ‘several hundreds’ in the forthcoming weeks.
The company has also revealed that subscribers to its Free Mobile Plan, currently priced at EUR19.99 (USD27.10) per month, will now benefit from download speeds of up to 150Mbps, at no additional cost. Further, the price plan will provide a 20GB data allowance. By way of comparison, rival Bouygues Telecom’s cheapest 4G plan costs EUR29.99 (for 3GB of data); Orange provides 4G services for EUR39.99 per month (including 4GB of data); and SFR charges EUR42.99 for 3GB of data over its 4G network.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the auction of 4G wireless frequencies in France was completed in 2011. The watchdog received the highest bid from Free Mobile, which agreed to pay EUR271 million for the two largest blocks of 2×20MHz spectrum in the 2550MHz-2570MHz and 2670MHz-2690MHz frequency bands. Free did not provide 4G launch date at that time, but in April 2013 its founder Xavier Niel said that his company planned to ‘surprise the market’ when it eventually did introduce LTE.