Free Mobile (French: [mɔbil]) is a French wireless service provider, part of the Iliad group. It was the fourth mobile network operator to obtain a metropolitan French 3G license in 2009. It also obtained a 4G license in 2011.

Free Mobile
TypeSAS
(subsidiary of Iliad)
IndustryTelecommunications
Founded24 July 2007 (2007-07-24)
FounderXavier Niel
Headquarters,
Area served
France
Key people
Xavier Niel
Maxime Lombardini
Rani Assaf
Antoine Levavasseur
OwnerIliad
Number of employees
1,638 (as of January 2012)
ParentFree
Websitemobile.free.fr

Free Mobile provides wireless services to 13.738 million subscribers as of March 2022.

HistoryEdit

3G license (900 MHz and 2100 MHz)Edit

The first 3G licenses were awarded to France Telecom (now Orange) in 2000, SFR in 2000 and Bouygues Telecom in 2002. Free Mobile application has been agreed by French regulatory authority ARCEP on 17 December 2009.[1] The license price is 240 million euros[2] for two 5 MHz duplex bands in the 900 MHz and 2100 MHz frequency bands.

Roaming agreementEdit

Free Mobile signed a 2G and 3G roaming agreement with Orange on 3 March 2011.[3] It was initially set to run until 31 December 2020. It was extended for 2 more years, up to 31 December 2022, on 28 October 2020.[4] 100% of the 2G traffic will go through Orange's network as Free Mobile has no 2G license.

Network deploymentEdit

Free Mobile has for legal obligation to cover 27% of the French population by January 2012, 75% by January 2015 and 90% by January 2018.

Free Mobile was already covering 30% of the French population in November 2011.[5] A 3G roaming agreement with Orange enables communications channeled through Orange's network, which covers about 98%[6] of the French metropolitan population according to ARCEP.

Free Mobile was covering 37.3% of the French population in July 2012.[7] Xavier Niel announced its network was covering 50% in January 2013.[8]ARCEP confirmed that Free Mobile covered 78% of the population in January 2015.[9]

An estimated 18,000 antennas, depending on the frequencies, are required to cover the whole French metropolitan area. Free Mobile operates roughly 21,600 3G antennas, 21,300 4G antennas and 13,500 5G antennas as of January 2022.[10]

Number of 3G, 4G and 5G antennas in service (Source ANFR[11]):

3G:

5,000
10,000
15,000
20,000
25,000
30,000
Q4 2012
Q4 2013
Q4 2014
Q4 2015
Q4 2016
Q4 2017
Q4 2018
Q4 2019
Q4 2020
Q4 2021

4G:

5,000
10,000
15,000
20,000
25,000
30,000
Q4 2012
Q4 2013
Q4 2014
Q4 2015
Q4 2016
Q4 2017
Q4 2018
Q4 2019
Q4 2020
Q4 2021

5G:

2,500
5,000
7,500
10,000
12,500
15,000
Q4 2012
Q4 2013
Q4 2014
Q4 2015
Q4 2016
Q4 2017
Q4 2018
Q4 2019
Q4 2020
Q4 2021

Service launchEdit

ARCEP confirmed that Free covers enough of the country to open commercially and start using its roaming agreement with Orange. For the few first years Free will pay Orange to get a full national coverage, for the roaming license agreement as it arrived late to the mobile market.

Free Mobile launched its two offers on 10 January 2012.[12] Both offers are without commitment and without subsidized phones.

4G license (2600 MHz)Edit

Free Mobile obtained a 4G license on 22 September 2011 for 271 million euros[13] for a duplex 20 MHz band in the 2600 MHz frequency band. It failed to obtain further bands in the 800 MHz frequency band.[14]

4G launchEdit

Xavier Niel announced on his Twitter account the availability of the 4G on 3 December 2013.[15] 4G was added, at no additional cost, to the current commercial packages.

Additional 4G frequency bands (1800 MHz)Edit

Free Mobile has been granted 15 MHz duplex bands in the 1800 MHz frequency band to balance with the licenses offered for free in this band to the other operators back in early 2000s. 5 MHz have been available between January and June 2015 and the remaining 10 MHz will be on 25 May 2016.[16]

Additional 4G frequency bands (700 MHz)Edit

The auction for the 700 MHz frequency band started on 16 November 2015. Initial bidding price was set at 416 million euros per 5 MHz duplex band. Six bands were for sale. The auction ended on 17 November 2015. Free mobile bought two bands (10Mhz duplex) at 466 million euros (932 million euros).

3G data roaming throttlingEdit

Free Mobile announced covering 85% of the population in 3G as of 1 July 2016. 3G data roaming throttling will be applied on Orange network:

Start date Download limit Upload limit
09/2016 5 Mbit/s 448 kbit/s
01/2017 1 Mbit/s 448 kbit/s
01/2019 768 kbit/s 384 kbit/s
01/2020 384 kbit/s 384 kbit/s

French overseas departmentsEdit

Free Mobile was awarded frequencies in several French overseas departments and territories on 13 October 2016. Including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion, Martinique, Mayotte, Saint-Barthelemy and Saint-Martin.

Additional frequency bands (900 MHz and 2100 MHz)Edit

Free Mobile benefited from a redistribution of the frequency bands among the 4 French mobile operators, following an agreement with the government on 23 October 2018 for providing coverage in the "white spots":[17]

  • Free Mobile will have 7.6 MHz in the 900 MHz range on 25 March 2021 then 8.7 MHz on 9 December 2024 (from the initial 5 MHz acquired in 2009).
  • Free Mobile will have 14.8 MHz in the 2100 MHz range on 21 August 2021 (from the initial 5 MHz acquired in 2009).

5G license (3.4-3.8 GHz)Edit

Free Mobile obtained a 5G license on 1 October 2020 for 70 MHz in the 3.4-3.8 GHz range for 602 million euros.[18]

5G launchEdit

Free Mobile started its 5G service on 15 December 2020.[19] Free Mobile announced it in a humorous tweet with Xavier Niel.[20]

CustomersEdit

Free Mobile launched its two offers on 10 January 2012. The number of customers rose quickly in Q1 2012 and again in Q4 2012, after Free Mobile upgraded its €2.00 offer (from one hour/60 SMS to two hours/unlimited SMS) on 6 December 2012.

Number of customers (Source Iliad[21]):

2,500,000
5,000,000
7,500,000
10,000,000
12,500,000
15,000,000
Q1 2012
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2013
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2014
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2015
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2016
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2017
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2018
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2019
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2020
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2021
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q1 2022
  •   Quarter gain
  •   Quarter loss

Free Mobile reached 5,205,000 customers, an 8% market share, in its first year[22] (compared to 27.0 million mobile customers for Orange, 20.7 million for SFR and 11.3 million for Bouygues Télécom).[23]

Free Mobile currently holds a 19% market share. Its long-term goal is a 25% market share.

Frequency bandsEdit

Free Mobile uses the following frequency bands as of 2021:[citation needed]

Frequency bands Technology Band length
700 MHz LTE 10 MHz duplex
800 MHz - -
900 MHz UMTS 7.6 MHz duplexa
1800 MHz LTE 15 MHz duplex
2100 MHz UMTS 14.8 MHz duplexb
2600 MHz LTE 20 MHz duplex
3.4-3.8 GHz 5G 70 MHz
  • ^a (5 MHz in 2009 + 2.6 MHz in 2021) (1.1 MHz extra expected on 9 December 2024)
  • ^b (5 MHz in 2009 + 9.8 MHz in 2021)

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "ARCEP accepts Free Mobile's application". ARCEP. 18 December 2009. Archived from the original on 11 October 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  2. ^ "Iliad To Be France's Fourth Mobile Operator". The Wall Street Journal. 18 December 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2010.[dead link]
  3. ^ Free Mobile and Orange sign a 2G roaming agreement and agree to extend this to 3G networks
  4. ^ Arcep extends Free Mobile-Orange roaming deal to 2022
  5. ^ "Free mobile network coverage in November 2011". PCInpact. 17 November 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Couverture 3G 2011 en France". PCImpact. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  7. ^ (in French)Free Mobile couvrait 37,3 % de la population au 1er juillet 2012
  8. ^ (in French)Free Mobile couvre 50 % de la population en 3G et parle de l'itinérance en 4G
  9. ^ (in French)Free Mobile couvre 78% de la population en 3G, l'Arcep confirme.
  10. ^ (in French)anfr.fr
  11. ^ (in French)ANFR Les résultats de l'Observatoire
  12. ^ Iliad launches mobile service with aggressive offers
  13. ^ (in French)4G : les fréquences de Free, Orange, Bouygues et SFR dévoilées
  14. ^ Bande 800 MHz (4G) : SFR obtient deux blocs, Free Mobile aucun
  15. ^ Xavier Niel [@Xavier75] (3 December 2013). "#FreeMobile €19.99/m: #4G 20GB ! 4G4U :-)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ (in French)1800 MHz : l’ARCEP attribue à Free Mobile un bloc de 5 MHz
  17. ^ (in French)«New Deal» Mobile : Résultats de l'attribution des fréquences des bandes 900 MHz, 1800 MHz et 2,1 GHz
  18. ^ (in French)5G : ILIAD LAUREAT DE 70 MHz DE FREQUENCES 3,4 – 3,8 GHz
  19. ^ (in French)Free lance la 5G après ses concurrents mais avec humour
  20. ^ 5G launch announcement tweet
  21. ^ Iliad Financial Press releases
  22. ^ 2012: Free revolutionises mobile telephony - Group posts record growth
  23. ^ (in French)Abonnés Free mobile: 5,2 millions de clients un an après le lancement