And one more year. On January 10, 2012, Free Mobile landed on the market, the mobile revolution was then born in France. 11 years later, the operator is playing in the big leagues.
“Freedom, equality, unchanged prices“, such is the motto of the founder of Free. 11 years ago, Xavier Niel’s operator launched into the mobile market with great fanfare, cutting prices while bringing the competition to its knees with a clear guideline. All this while relying on values that will remain unchanged in this segment, but which have had an undeniable impact on the sector.
It’s in the name, the first value of Free Mobile remains freedom with in particular the launch of offers without commitment and in “SIM Only”, changing the current practices at the time on the market with long-term commitments. The operator is also keen on a simplicity of the offer, with only two packages launched in 2012 then the launch of an intermediate offer in 2018 with the Free Series offer. It also claims generosity in the content of its packages, with the introduction of unlimited calls and SMS which have since become the norm, as well as an enrichment in data despite a price unchanged in 10 years, going from 3GB/month at launch to 150GB/month in 2021, then 210GB currently. Without forgetting of course the integration of 4G and 5G at no additional cost.
Unchanged prices and constant evolutions
In terms of the technologies offered, the operator has been able to keep up with the competition with the certainly late launch of VoLTE, VoWiFi and eSIM. In terms of innovation, we note the launch of Free Flex in June 2021, which allows the payment of a mobile phone to be spread out at no cost. And Free Mobile would be nothing without one of its primary values: the right price. With prices unchanged since 2012, the operator’s packages have radically and quickly led to a drop in the cost of a mobile subscription. “INSEE estimates the drop in mobile prices in France at 9.5% over the first nine months of 2012” Free announcement: in 2012, according to Arcep, the average monthly mobile bill for the French was €27.3/month, compared to €14.30 in 2022. What makes France one of the European countries where the price of mobile telecommunications is the lowest. The ex-troublemaker promised last year not to touch his rates for 5 years. Its €2 plan has benefited for a few months from a paid option, a 600 MB booster including unlimited calls at the price of €2.99/month. The premium package continues to evolve without additional cost. Recently, 41 countries became accessible to 5G roaming subscribers. Launched in July 2018, its Free Series offer is now fixed at €14.99/month for 1 year with 110 GB of data. This is a way for the operator to improve its mix of 4G/5G subscribers since after one year subscribers switch to its most expensive package. What also improve its average revenue per subscriber.
Uses have also evolved and Free Mobile has been able to adapt. In 2010, the average monthly consumption of subscribers was 0.3 GB per month, a derisory figure compared to the 13.2 GB used on average by the French. Similarly, operators also had to offer new solutions for travelers who wanted to be able to use their package with complete peace of mind when abroad. Over the years, Free has integrated more than 70 new destinations for browsing abroad on its 4G smartphone, while offering a 25 GB envelope for this use.
A dense 4G and 5G network
To support this change in usage, Free also had to quickly and efficiently deploy a nationwide mobile network. Starting from a coverage of 27% of the population in 3G with 700 mobile sites, the operator has since largely caught up, despite a launch nearly 15 years after the incumbent operators. Free Mobile now has 23,524 sites in France and even benefits from the largest 5G network in terms of number of sites with 16,524 5G sites, enabling it to cover 99.8% of the population in 4G and 87% in 5G. And the operator does not intend to stop there by targeting more than 25,000 sites throughout France in 2023.
To operate these networks and deploy these infrastructures, the operator has thus more than multiplied by 5 the number of employees within its parent company. All these developments have enabled the operator to count 14 million subscribers today.
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Free Mobile celebrates its 11th anniversary and competes
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