INTERNET and mobile phone operator Free has entered the 4G market with a splash by promising new-generation high-speed connections for the price of the previous 3G.
As it did in the home broadband and mobile markets previously, the move shakes up the market’s pricing structures – competitors like Orange had added around €10 to monthly packages for the new network.
Free managing director Maxime Lombardini said that while 4G involves “significant investments”, these are not enough to justify a big hike in price. Its package is therefore €19.99, or €15.99 for people with Free’s home internet service.
However, Orange boss Stéphane Richard hit back, saying the move was “just hot air” and “a marketing stunt” because Free had such a patchy 4G network that most customers would get only 3G coverage. “They’re selling 3G for the price of 4G for a simple reason – because they’re selling 3G”, he said.
Free says it covers some 1,000 communes with 700 masts (there are 36,000 communes in France, though varying in size from cities to hamlets), while Bouygues claims to cover 63% of the population with 5,392 masts, Orange half the population with 3,879 and SFR 40% with 1,013.
Free is thought to have made the announcement now, in time for Christmas, which is a key time for people buying new phones and taking up new subscriptions. The new 4G service requires a compatible, purpose-made phone.
It remains to be seen which of the other operators will be first to try to compete by offering 4G through the no-frills services they launched to try to compete with Free (Orange’s Sosh, SFR’s RED and Bouygue’s B&You).
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