Ministers express concerns over Free’s 4G offer

5 Dec 2013

Arnaud Montebourg, France’s Minister of Productive Recovery, and Fleur Pellerin, the country’s Minister of Digital Economy, have expressed their concerns over ’the quality of service provided throughout the territory [of France]’ and the consequences of the recent introduction of 4G discount offers on the French economy. According to a joint press release, the ministers pointed out that the quality of the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service, launched by French telco Iliad (Free) on 3 December 2013, may appear dubious to consumers, if ‘the coverage proved to be insufficient in large parts of the country’. The two ministers also added: ‘As [Iliad’s 4G] network is still under construction, the announcement by the operator appears to be a bold and risky bet.’ Further, Montebourg and Pelerin pointed out that ‘a low-cost strategy necessarily leads to under-investment in infrastructure, to a degradation of the service rendered and job destruction’, adding that a new price war in the French mobile market would weaken the ability of operators to maintain significant levels of investment in telecoms infrastructure.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate on 3 December 2013, cellco Free 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. Further, Free Mobile also pointed out that its network infrastructure was 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), with plans to increase the number of 4G sites by ‘several hundreds’ in the forthcoming weeks. The footprint of the network, however, was deemed as ‘very limited’ in comparison to the LTE footprint of its rivals.