Arcep, the French telecoms regulator, gave Iliad's Free Mobile, France's fourth cell phone operator, the go-ahead to launch service. The regulator said that Free had already met the level of 3G coverage it was required to have by Jan. 12, and the company is expected to launch service before then.
Arcep says that Free Mobile has met the conditions of its licence--which it acquired for €240 million in 2009--by providing 3G coverage to more than 25 per cent of the French population. The company has already agreed a 3G roaming deal with Orange to enable country-wide services.
The company is said to be positioning itself to compete with its established rivals--France Telecom Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom-- by offering services priced 50 per cent lower than existing tariffs. Commenting on the planned launch, Iliad's owner Xavier Niel said in a cryptic Twitter post: "The rocket is on the launch pad, the countdown has started."
Earlier, Niel had warned his competitors of a stiff fight, and invited them to think twice if they wanted to continue in business.
"It [the launch] will happen soon," said Niel. "So, this weekend they [the competition] should think, create aggressive marketing plans, and then they might have a chance to survive."
- see this L'Expansion article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this 01Net article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this Reuters article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article
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