Free Mobile

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Free Mobile
(subsidiary of Iliad)
Industry Telecommunications
Founded 24 July 2007 (2007-07-24)
Founder Xavier Niel
Headquarters Paris, France
Area served
Key people
Xavier Niel
Maxime Lombardini
Rani Assaf
Antoine Levavasseur
Owner Iliad
Number of employees
1,638 (as of January 2012)
Parent Free

Free Mobile 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 provides wireless services to 13.140 million subscribers as of June 2017.


3G license[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 2100 MHz and 900 MHz frequency bands.

Roaming agreement[edit]

Free Mobile signed a 2G and 3G roaming agreement with Orange on 3 March 2011.[3] It will run until the end of 2020. 100% of the 2G traffic will go through Orange's network as Free Mobile has no 2G license.

Network deployment[edit]

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.[4] A 3G roaming agreement with Orange enables communications channeled through Orange's network, which covers about 98% [5] of the French metropolitan population according to ARCEP.

Free Mobile was covering 37.3% of the French population in July 2012.[6] Xavier Niel announced its network was covering 50% in January 2013.[7] ARCEP confirmed that Free Mobile covered 78% of the population in January 2015.[8]

An estimated 18,000 antennas, depending on the frequencies, are required to cover the whole French metropolitan area. Free Mobile operates roughly 10,900 3G antennas (13,600 authorizations) and 8,500 4G antennas (11,400 authorizations) as of August 2017.[9]

Service launch[edit]

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.[10] Both offers are without commitment and without subsidized phones.

4G license[edit]

Free Mobile obtained a 4G license on 22 September 2011 for 271 million euros [11] for a duplex 20 MHz band in the 2600 MHz frequency band. It failed to obtain further bands in the 800 MHz frequency band.[12]

4G launch[edit]

Xavier Niel announced on his Twitter account the availability of the 4G on 3 December 2013.[13] 4G was added, at no additional cost, to the current commercial packages.

Additional 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 the 25 May 2016.[14]

Additional 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 throttling[edit]

Free Mobile announced covering 85% of the population in 3G as of 1st 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 departments[edit]

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.


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
Date Customers (Market share)
End of Q1 2012
End of Q2 2012
End of Q3 2012
End of Q4 2012
End of Q1 2013
End of Q2 2013
End of Q3 2013
End of Q4 2013
End of Q1 2014
End of Q2 2014
End of Q3 2014
End of Q4 2014
End of Q1 2015
End of Q2 2015
End of Q3 2015
End of Q4 2015
End of Q1 2016
End of Q2 2016
End of Q3 2016
End of Q4 2016
End of Q1 2017
End of Q2 2017

Free Mobile reached 5,205,000 customers, an 8% market share, in its first year. [15] (Compared to 27.0 millions mobile customers for Orange, 20.7 millions for SFR and 11.3 millions for Bouygues Télécom.) [16]

Free Mobile currently holds a 18.5% market share. Its long-term goal is a 25% market share.

Frequency bands[edit]

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

Frequency bands Technology Band length

700 MHz LTE 10 MHz duplex
800 MHz - -
900 MHz UMTS 5 MHz duplex
1800 MHz LTE 15 MHz duplex
2100 MHz UMTS 5 MHz duplex
2600 MHz LTE 20 MHz duplex

See also[edit]