back to article French get unlimited mobile for €20

Disruptive French broadband provider Free Mobile has announced pricing for its new mobile venture, and it's cheap, really cheap, thanks to lots of Wi-Fi and femtocell offloading. For €20 a month the customer gets unlimited calls within France and to 39 other countries including the USA – and unlimited data too, with the price …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. gautam


    If the French can do it, surely we can too! After all, we all have set-top boxes in our homes!

    Anyone there? Hello?

    1. Thomas 4


      I'm not a mechanical person, so I don't know how it all works but what's preventing your Wifi from getting a hell of a lot of lag every time someone walks by making a big download on their phone? Especially if you live next to a main road or similar.

      1. DJ 2

        My public wifi bit is turned off because of this reason alone. The last time I left it on, there were 20+ ips distributed on the public side of the box.

        1. Stuart 22

          Lucky you!

          I turned mine (FON) off because no one ever used it - in a busy populous part of London.

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        @Thomas 4

        WiFi isn't normally mechanical (I wonder if the throughput would go down or up if it was?), but the idea of a wireless access point providing more than one service at a time is nothing new.

        You would rely on the AP to allocate airtime and upstead bandwidth according to some rules. E.G. if your ADSL customer is paying for the connection, you give them priority over both, and if there is spare, you let the public use it.

        Of course, since they already have your money, and want lots of new public subscribers, they might skew things a bit the other way; but what company doesn't screw it's current customers in the attempt to make the most money from them while trying to encourage new customers with limited offers, etc.?

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Sounds a bit like Fon

          The Fon network from Fonera has a similar principle for WiFi. Fon charges a one-time fee for a small WiFi router. If you then choose to share some of your bandwidth (how much is up to you) with the public, you get free access to all other public Fon hotspots anywhere in the world. Of which there are a lot. The company also runs a revenue sharing model where you can get a share of any fees paid by people who buy a pass when they try to connect to your router.

      3. biscuit


        The wifi in a Freebox (that's what the STB is called) has two sections (I'm not a networking person so I don't know what it's called) - one section is full speed and is available to the people in the home who know the password, the other section is throttled and is available to anyone who is also subscribed to Free. It's not totally public, you need to be a Free subscriber to access it.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          @ biscuit

          Does this second section count as an independent router? What if the connected person is ripping off songs, movies, etc - what IP address will show up when HADOPI comes to call? As practically NO domestic bundled routers provide auditing, how could you hope to argue it wasn't you? I'm sure they've heard that many times before...

          1. badgeror


            Using the second section gives you a separate IP address that is unique and associated to your FreeWifi (that's how the second section is called) account... so whatever you do is your responsibility not the router's owner one...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward


              I think you're confusing the client-side IP address assigned to the FreeWIfi user, which of course will be different, with the routers main WAN IP address assigned to the DSL side. There's only one address assigned by Free to the DSL line, shared by all clients on a given Freebox, and that will show up on any search for infringing downloads. It will be very interetsing to see what happens the first time this gets tested in a court.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is QoS integrated in those set-top boxes. Walkers by do no interfere with the real owners' use. They cannot even see each other. And, for having used it occasionally, let me tell you that you do not start big downloads using a wifi router that's inside a home you cannot enter. You don't exactly get all the bars for the signal strength.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The title is too long.

        "what's preventing your Wifi from getting a hell of a lot of lag every time someone walks by making a big download on their phone?"

        The lag usually comes from the ISP throttling/limiting your connection speed (A lot of people in the uk have the television signal coming through the same cable as internet. At peak times, the internet lags like a bitch, but the television still works fine). Assuming they route the public usage appropriately (and the wifi tech is reasonably modern), the effect on your wifi connection should be minimal.

  2. James Micallef Silver badge

    If only....

    ...the price wars could spill over the border into Switzerland, where an unlimited* package is on teh order of CHF100 (€75-80) / mth

    *not unlimited

  3. Dave Fox

    Unlimited data?

    So, cellular data has a 3GB cap - in what way is that unlimited?

    Femtocells have a range of around 10m, so it's pretty unlikely that you'll regularly be connecting via a Femtocell when you're out and about!

    1. Tchou
      Thumb Up

      Unlimited calls for 20€.

      Basic offer of 2 hours + 60 sms for 2€ (two €).

      Data transfer capped at 3Go/month, it's pretty cool for a smartphone, and beyond 3 Go it's just slowed down, not blocked.

      Pretty decent.

      Once again, "La Révolution" starts in France.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        "Once again, 'La Révolution' starts in France."

        That's great. Can they cut-off the head of the CEO of Vodafone please, and then extend into UK/Spain.

        Voda Spain recently charged me 0.5€ per hour to have my phone switched on on the Voda UK network, plus 10€/MB for data when roaming from Voda Spain. Oh, and if you happen to come accross any programmers from Whatsapp, you can cut-off their heads too please for their non-functioning "do not use a fscking network connection when roaming option"

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Change company, innit

          Switch to Yoigo or a virtual operator like Simyo or Pepephone.

          Not as cheap as Free's offer but certainly much cheaper. Unless you're constantly roaming in the UK then little you could save on roaming with the big three operators will more than be outweighed by what you save in Spain.

          1. gribbler

            Simyo all the way if you're in Spain

            They're dirt cheap and in fact just emailed me last week to announce that they were going to increase my bandwidth limit for free.

    2. badgeror

      fair use it is...

      Basically you get 3GB at full speed and reduced bandwidth after that

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I hear a rumor that's being upgraded to 10GB Fair Use soon (along with some other not so interesting rumours)

      Free do have their own network (4G, not used as a 4G network yet...), and albeit not fully covering France yet, but with the Orange deal the % coverage to above the legal minimum requirement.

      p.s. Freeboxes (new) don't have femtocells inside. I've checked ;)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's absolutely hilarious (since I'm a customer of neither) to see the aforementioned competition already slashing their own prices by 40% to 50%, less than 24h after Free's announcement, in a desperate attempt to stop their disgruntled customers moving to the newcomer.

    1. Yag

      Already too late...

      My soon to be former operator was *harassing* me every week for the last two month in order to peddle a new locked-in contract... Strangely, this gave me the motivation to leave ASAP :)

      Already signed in for switching from 2 hours/no SMS at 26 euros to the ultra-cheap 1 hours/60 sms for 2 euro per month...

      Now, let's hope Free won't screw it somehow...

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        @ yag

        My Orange contract (12 month) expires in two weeks. Just sent the cancellation letter. I plan to take out another with a new phone. No quibbles about their service, but I'd like to see how this shakes things up. My desired contract would be very lovely at a smaller monthly price. I'm happy enough with 500Mb, but I wouldn't say no to more (even if I probably wouldn't use it).

        FWIW - Orange used to cold call me at the start of my telephone/internet contract (no, I don't want a satellite receiver unless it can give me BBC!) so I just played le foutu anglais routine and, oddly enough, they gave up bothering me. ;)

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Yag

          "Just sent the cancellation letter."

          I hope your bluff works, you may lose your current phone number...

          For reference, in France, in order to keep the phone number, you should NOT cancel by yourself, but instead retrieve the RIO (Relevé d'Identité Operateur - an unified ID) via a simple phone call to 3179 with your cell phone, then supply this number to your new provider - the new provider will cancel your current contract.

  5. SW


    With France being so rural it's going to be a long distance between routers that you can WLAN connect to. That's if Free had a complete coverage of customers with the requisite boxes. It might work in towns and cities but I certainly wouldn't expect it to work out here in the sticks - which presumably then the phone would revert to bog-standard mobile phone communications - so maybe for us rural customers it would be a way of getting nice cheap comms whilst still utilising the existing GSM networks.

    1. amanfromearth


      Her in rural france, the ADSL on gets to 2Mbits, so lots of piggyback will really kill my speed.

      I'm please that Orange is getting shafted though.. their prices here are ridiculous.

  6. badgeror

    Concerning the coverage issue

    actually free has an agreement with orange letting it use orange's network wherever needed (i.e. no coverage by free yet) so everybody's already covered actually

  7. mrmond

    cheaper calls

    Easiest option before going abroad is make sure your phones unlocked before you go and get a local sim card. Orange in romania is considerably cheaper than Orange in the UK for example (7 euro for 2500 calls/sms on Orange & 120 mins international to mobile and landlines, even comes with 100mb data)

    I can't understand why people don't do this and just send a text saying "I'm on this number for the next xx weeks". The person at home will pay more,but still less than the roaming costs usually, especially in europe.

    1. Wize

      But you are on holiday and everyone important should know it.

      Try turning your phone off for a few days. Its even cheaper.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its good while it lasts...

    I think actions like these are only used to bring in new customers. And while people are most likely to enjoy this setup the first year (or two / three) I'm pretty confident that this isn't going to last.

    Because with every new customer they will also need more bandwith. And that can only continue so far, up to a point where the company will need some drastic expansions in their bandwith (probably requiring new hardware) or find a way to cut back on it.

    I've seen it happening in Holland too; several network providers had subscriptions like these; you pay a nominal fee and had unlimited (but capped) internet access. That lasted right until the smartphone usage increased.

    1. Yag

      1 - It's still one or a couple of dirt cheap mobile communication years

      2 - It will drive the prices waaaaaaay down

  9. SiempreTuna
    Thumb Down

    Yeah, but no phone

    The €20/month is WITHOUT a subsidised phone.

    Add the full cost of a smartphone and you're looking at around €50/month - good for France, but a bit s**t for everywhere else .. at least, everywhere else in Europe.

  10. Tim Brown 1

    Competition in the french mobile market is sorely needed

    As someone with a house in France I can tell you that their mobile market still lags a long way behind the UK.

    For instance ALL pay-as-you-go plans in France still use the concept of expiring credit. Top-up your phone with say 30 euros of credit and if you don't use it within a specified time-limit it's gone, even if you''ve made no calls at all. The UK did away with that sort of thievery a decade ago or more.

    1. Ian Watkinson

      Er no they didn't! Virgin was the only network that didn't, and then they changed their t&c's.

      Top up a mobile with £10, don't use it for 91 days and say good bye to your tenner...and mobile number, and what ever cost you paid for the sim.

      How ofcom lets them get away with it, I'll never know (well ok ofcom are shite, but that aside!)

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Bothered about rip-off British operators and their 90 day top-up limit?

        Then choose Orange France and top up with 5 euros and watch it disappear in six days or top up with 10 euros and watch it disappear in 12 days. Not that you're in much danger of running out of time at 54 cents per minute.

    2. Nev Silver badge

      Maybe you're paying the...

      ... non-resident-coming-over-here-inflating-our-house-prices rate?

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        @ Nev

        How about, Nev, we're paying the price that was chosen by the Frenchies as they gleefully sold us damp old buildings that nobody saw fit to live in at a price that gave all the locals a good laugh... and *now* they're realising they shafted themselves? A decade and a half too late.

        Inflating house prices? We Brits didn't set the price. The French sellers did. And as we Brits were clueless and willing to pay, y'all got greedy. Deal with the fallout. Besides, it is not as if any of us actually *want* to live in one of those dinky lottissement "Monopoly" houses...

        [PS: I'm *resident* in La Belle France, in a way-old-damp-house, that all the locals said was overpriced (but in its defence, it came with a working toilet installed! (a rarity in those days))]

  11. Joe Montana


    Payment services over mobile are widespread in many african countries...

    The reason being, credit cards are fundamentally flawed from a security perspective and therefore totally unusable in countries with very high levels of fraud.

    Paying with a credit card is the equivalent of giving away the keys to your safe, and trusting the merchant to only take an agreed amount from it... Very easy for them to take as much as they want.

    Mobile online payments are a much better idea since you effectively initiate a bank transfer on the fly, and only send the amount you want. I would be much happier with such a payment system, but visa/mastercard have too much influence and would never let such a system fly because it disrupts their existing business model.

    1. Andy ORourke

      Top up scratch cards in Tunisia

      Just back from Tunisia and found the 3G reception there fantastic with Tunisia Telecom, better than the T-Mobile reception in my house!

      2 Dinar per day (@ 50p) for 500 Meg Data and a cheap call package as well that set me back 5 Dinar (about £2.50) and I spent about £12.00 all the time I was there and was able to "check in" from the Sahara desert!

      Now, if only we could get our coverage as sorted as that!

  12. The Brave Sir Robin

    I wish someone...

    would do something about the use of the word unlimited when it comes to data comms. Clearly this deal is NOT unlimited. There are obvious limits.

  13. Scotty

    BT Fusion ?

    BT offered 3 times your allowance if you were in the vicinity of a home hub / fon / openzone hotspot.

    Alas, shity handset & wifi chewing thru your battery & the inabiliy to get realtime call allowance checks as the x3 multiplier couldnt be verified ... and a clear drop off between wifi & cellular made it a crappy white elephant in my experience.

  14. Cyclist

    Bloody clever

    These frenchies, not only sorting out the business model and the tech requirements, but doing ti French as well. That'd take me days just to work out the ToC in the spec to tender.

    Le neat, n'est que pas?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget that this is "Free" we're talking about

    Any nothing is truly Free. TANSTAFFL.

    Their ADSL service is reputedly not bad if you're on an unbundled exchange, but from personal experience I can tell you that it's crap if you're not unbundled. Anywhere that Free have to buy service from someone else, you can forget about "service". I dumped their ADSL when they started blocking everything except plain port-80 HTTP in the evenings, and broke VPN connections. I have no reason to expect that this "use a nearby Freebox" model will be any more useful.

    Oh, and don't ever accuse them of fraud in a blog post, unless you want to end up discussing it with their lawyers in court. They make Apple lawyers look soft & cuddly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Should be TANSTAAFL, sorry (before the pedants flame me :) )

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        TINSTAAFL [There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch] shirley? The expression is singular.

        (Teach you to take on the pedants)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          There *ain't* no such thing as a free lunch.

          </Heinlein pedant>

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's How Cheap?

    Here's me in Estonia paying €12 per month for my really unlimited mobile data package. Works fine with Skype, I use a Skype cordless handset for non mobile calls. Data really is unlimited and has now replaced my previous cable connection on the grounds that a wireless 3G connection is more convenient than wire and WiFi.

    Bit Torrent works during the night to provide the next day's viewing needs.

    Prepay Sim for voice calls - I pay about €15 per month including a 5GB data allowance with tethering if I want.

    I don't understand how the pricing works when others are paying so much, its hardly an economy of scale thing given a total population of less than 1.5 million.

    1. Yag

      Do not forget that the price is not only set according to the cost, but also according to how much people can pay for it...

      According to Wikipedia (I know...), the median household in France is double the income in Estonia, so it is not really a surprise.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is this "femtocell" of which many of you speak? Sounds a bit like a sanitary product, to me.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge


      A tiny personal cellular base station that links back to the phone network via an internet connection. It's the next size down from a picocell...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I pay £25.00 / month

    This gives me a 2000 minutes, 5000 texts but the best part is I get *unlimited* data (yes, I mean unlimited unlimited - no caps or FUP's)

    This means, I can use an app on my Jesus Phone called 3g Unrestrictor and use ANY app I want and it fools it to think Im using WiFi.

    If I have used all my calls up, I then use Viber to call free of charge to other Jesus Phone users I know (most of my friends now - I was the last to convert kicking and screaming to the church of Jobs... Glad I did though!)

    I have a SIP client installed to call landlines and international numbers so save a fortune.

    Oh, and all this can be yours as well, just join the UK network that is simply a number (Not a colour or load of water bubbles)

    1. Putonghua73

      Not a colour or a load of water bubbles


      How is 3's coverage and call reception these days? When when they first appeared, my T-Mobile contract expired, and after a conversation with a customer service rep in a handset store deviating the pros and cons of being an early adopter, I signed up to 3 ( around 5 and a half years ago or so).

      Poor coverage (London), dropped calls and 90 minutes spent speaking to 6 customer reps before I coud cancel the contract! Went back to T-Mobile with my tail between my legs.

      My current contract expires this Autumn. Presuming, I do not decide to ditch blighty and return to China to live for a while (c700m Chinese women - vs stupidly long-ass commute via tube trains and Heathrow Connect), I need to decide whether to switch operators.

      My experience with 3 is quite dated so would be good to solicit the experience of other more recent subscribers.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now the French can act as obnoxious as U.S. zombies

    Now the French people can act as ignorant as U.S. zombies who spend their life on their cellphone.

  20. nonscience

    Mobile habits

    While Free offer is very attractive, it won't fit all french users.

    For a decade now, we've been used to this routine. You get a locked contract with a provider for 12 or 24 months in exchange for a cell phone at reduced cost (some customers made it a habit to get every new iPhone each year for under 100 bucks...Extra cost being paid in part on your monthly fee and part the provider itself).

    I work on a customer helpdesk for the competition. Last week was a landslide of calls, roughly sixty percent asking for details about how to break their current contract, asking how to unlock their phone to use other SIM cards and such.

    This week is another story. I had that specific case today of a woman that threatened for a lawsuit last week if she couldn't get rid of her contract and got it (stupid threat since it's her absolute legal right to break it any time). Today she called to cancel after reading the fine prints on Free offer. Most customers are now waiting for their regular providers to announce their commercial offers in response.

    I love it, people "fought" to get cheaper cell phones in early 2000's and got it with standard contracts. Now they applaud a rollback then get angry to discover what it implies for them in the end.

    I laugh, I don't care, I don't own a cell at all ^^

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021