Free Mobile

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Free Mobile
(subsidiary of Iliad)
Founded24 July 2007 (2007-07-24)
FounderXavier Niel
Area served
Key people
Xavier Niel
Maxime Lombardini
Rani Assaf
Antoine Levavasseur
Number of employees
1,638 (as of January 2012)

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 13.535 million subscribers as of September 2018.


3G license (900 MHz and 2100 MHz)[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 900 MHz and 2100 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 14,100 3G antennas and 11,600 4G antennas as of November 2018.[9]

Number of 3G and 4G antennas in service (Source ANFR[10]):

Q4 2012
Q4 2013
Q4 2014
Q4 2015
Q4 2016
Q4 2017
Q4 2012
Q4 2013
Q4 2014
Q4 2015
Q4 2016
Q4 2017

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

4G license (2600 MHz)[edit]

Free Mobile obtained a 4G license on 22 September 2011 for 271 million euros [12] for a duplex 20 MHz band in the 2600 MHz frequency band. It failed to obtain further bands in the 800 MHz frequency band.[13]

4G launch[edit]

Xavier Niel announced on his Twitter account the availability of the 4G on 3 December 2013.[14] 4G was added, at no additional cost, to the current commercial packages.

Additional 4G 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.[15]

Additional 4G 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 1 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 (Source Iliad[16]):

Q1 2012
Q1 2013
Q1 2014
Q1 2015
Q1 2016
Q1 2017
Q1 2018
  •   Quarter gain
  •   Quarter loss

Free Mobile reached 5,205,000 customers, an 8% market share, in its first year. [17] (Compared to 27.0 millions mobile customers for Orange, 20.7 millions for SFR and 11.3 millions for Bouygues Télécom.) [18]

Free Mobile currently holds a 19% 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]


  1. ^ "ARCEP accepts Free Mobile's application". ARCEP. 18 December 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  2. ^ "Iliad To Be France's Fourth Mobile Operator". The Wall Street Journal. 18 December 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2010.[dead link]
  3. ^ Free Mobile and Orange sign a 2G roaming agreement and agree to extend this to 3G networks
  4. ^ "Free mobile network coverage in November 2011". PCInpact. 17 November 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Couverture 3G 2011 en France". PCImpact. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  6. ^ (in French)Free Mobile couvrait 37,3 % de la population au 1er juillet 2012
  7. ^ (in French)Free Mobile couvre 50 % de la population en 3G et parle de l'itinérance en 4G
  8. ^ (in French)Free Mobile couvre 78% de la population en 3G, l'Arcep confirme.
  9. ^ (in French)
  10. ^ (in French)ANFR Les résultats de l'Observatoire
  11. ^ Iliad launches mobile service with aggressive offers
  12. ^ (in French)4G : les fréquences de Free, Orange, Bouygues et SFR dévoilées
  13. ^ Bande 800 MHz (4G) : SFR obtient deux blocs, Free Mobile aucun
  14. ^ Xavier Niel [@Xavier75] (3 December 2013). "#FreeMobile €19.99/m: #4G 20GB ! 4G4U :-)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  15. ^ (in French)1800 MHz : l’ARCEP attribue à Free Mobile un bloc de 5 MHz
  16. ^ Iliad Financial Press releases
  17. ^ 2012: Free revolutionises mobile telephony - Group posts record growth
  18. ^ (in French)Abonnés Free mobile: 5,2 millions de clients un an après le lancement