Iliad will disrupt the French cell phone market by offering customers free femtocells when it launches its Free Mobile service early next year.
The company is thought to be planning to integrate a femtocell chipset into its existing Freebox Revolution set-top box so as to out-manoeuvre rival triple-pay service providers.
SFR is already marketing its Neufbox Evolution IPTV set-top with an integrated femtocell chipset to its customer base priced at €99. SFR launched the device late last year and can connect five 3G handsets.
While this move by Iliad is seen as a way to differentiate Free Mobile in the French market, Cnet France commented that femtocells would enable the mobile operator to meet its 3G coverage licence conditions at a lower cost. The company has previously stated that it plans to build its own 3G network with estimated capital expenditures of approximately €3 billion. Prior to this network deployment, Iliad had signed an agreement to use FT Orange's network until 2018.
The pending arrival of Free Mobile's 3G service has already promoted the leading operators in France to revamp their product portfolios and tariffs in advance of the launch. But this latest ploy by Iliad of offering free femtocells seems set to cause further headaches within France Telecom Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom as to how they might respond.
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