Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Freeserve.com plc
Company typePublic company
IndustryInternet and Communications
Orange UK
HeadquartersHemel Hempstead, England, UK
ProductsInternet service

Freeserve was a British Internet service provider, which was founded in 1998. At its height, the company became a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index, before merging into the Wanadoo group in 2000. It then became a subsidiary of France Telecom, who owned a controlling interest in Wanadoo. Wanadoo rebranded over time and eventually became Orange Home UK.

Since the merger of Orange UK into EE, Orange Home UK was integrated as a service within EE's range of services.


The company was founded in 1998 as a project between Dixons Group plc and Leeds-based hosting provider Planet Online to provide free Internet access to customers buying new home PCs from Dixons stores.[1] The concept was the brainchild of Ajaz Ahmed who was an employee at Dixons at the time. He grew frustrated of not being able to get online without technical knowhow and so sought about a better way for PC owners to get online. Initially the concept was called Channel 6 and was between Packard Bell and Planet Online. Packard Bell pulled out and Dixons (who resold their PCs) stepped in as joint partner.

Freeserve was one of the first of the UK's ISPs to dispense with the usual monthly subscription fee for Internet access, and instead to collect a proportion of the standard telephone line charges. This made it more appealing and affordable to the masses and paved way for more people gaining internet access in the UK. (At the time virtually all Internet access in the UK was by dial-up access via BT lines.) With Freeserve however each customer had 10 megabytes of webspace, and could split the email address into as many names as desired, using a simple extension of the normal email naming protocols (user@freeserve.co.uk could subdivide into email for dad@user.freeserve.co.uk and mum@user.freeserve.co.uk etc.).

At the time, not having a standing charge for such a comprehensive service, especially the webspace, was a radical step. Further revenue was obtained from advertisements on Freeserve's homepage, which was set as the default page in the customers' web browsers upon installing the Freeserve connection software. BT sought to challenge Freeserve's business plan by arguing that under the regulatory model (known as Number Translation Services, or NTS), it should receive more money for each call, and in January 1999 Oftel announced that it would carry out a review.[2]

Freeserve floated on the stock market in July 1999 (as Freeserve.com plc), at which point they had approximately 1.3 million subscribers and were valued at between £1.31 billion and £1.51 billion.[3]

By September 2000, Freeserve had more than two million active subscribers.[4] This was vastly more than the incumbent telephone provider BT, something that was unique for a European ISP.[citation needed]

Freeserve was bought by the France Télécom-owned company Wanadoo in 2000 for £1.65 billion.[5]

Freeserve began to trial the emerging ADSL broadband service in early 2000.[6] The original equipment supplied was a rack-type hard-wired modem and a separate router. A year later, the supplied end-user equipment was just a small USB-based modem, the Thomson SpeedTouch 330 (previously known as the Speedtouch USB).[7][8] Later,[when?][9] as Orange, they supplied a wireless ADSL modem router, the Orange-badged Siemens SE572, with one Ethernet port.[citation needed]

Successive rebrandings[edit]

After being bought by Wanadoo in 2000, Freeserve first had its name changed to Wanadoo UK plc on 28 April 2004.[10] Following a new rebranding exercise in June 2006, Freeserve and Wanadoo UK then formed part of the UK operation of Orange, and were known as Orange Home UK plc. In 2010 Orange UK and T-Mobile UK merged to form EE which was a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom. Orange's broadband service was then rebranded as EE Broadband on 30 October 2012.[11]


In August 2007, Orange started a process to purge unused Freeserve accounts from its system.[12]

Originally Freeserve accounts would be deactivated after ninety days if the dial-up number was not accessed (hence not generating any revenue for Orange). Customers would then receive an error message when trying to access their Freeserve email via another connection, but could reactivate the account before it was deleted by simply visiting the Orange website.

Orange extended the deactivation period to 260 days in 2007 but under the new regime users' accounts and all email are deleted permanently from Orange's servers after a 30-day warning is issued.

The account deactivation process ceased on 28 February 2012.

In 2016 the service hosting the original Freeserve personal webspace was deactivated, ending the anomaly of orphaned pages that could not be edited, the dial-up service allowing editing having ceased some years before.[13]

In early 2017 all email users were advised that the email service was also withdrawn. [14]


  1. ^ "Planet Online selects Cisco". Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  2. ^ "Freeserve rocks UK net industry". Archived from the original on 5 February 2006. Retrieved 30 June 2006.
  3. ^ "Freeserve gets a price tag". Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2006.
  4. ^ "Freeserve losses double". Archived from the original on 7 February 2006. Retrieved 30 June 2006.
  5. ^ "French rival seals Freeserve deal". 6 December 2000. Archived from the original on 6 February 2006. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  6. ^ at 11:11, Tim Richardson 23 March 2000. "The Register Guide to ADSL in Britain". www.theregister.co.uk. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ SpeedTouch™330 Installation and Setup Guide
  8. ^ "Speedtouch 330". wiki.debian.org - Debian Wiki. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  9. ^ "Today". Freeserve. Archived from the original on 30 March 2004. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  10. ^ Certificate of Incorporation on Change of Name[dead link]
  11. ^ "Corporate Website | Deutsche Telekom". Archived from the original on 6 April 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  12. ^ "Orange mounts sneaky Freeserve accounts purge". The Register. Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Orange personal web space service - Closure Notice". Archived from the original on 30 November 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  14. ^ "EE/Orange Email switch-off notice". Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2017.

External links[edit]