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French ISP Free opens up subscribers' WiFi to each other, adds handsets

Cyrus Farivar
10.17.06
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In what appears to be a potentially disruptive move, French ISP Free has just opened up its network of 300,000 subscribers' WiFi networks across France to its subscribers. What does that mean? If you're a Free subscriber living in Paris, and you and you come across a Free WiFi network while in Lyon for the day on business, you can log in and use up to 64kbps of bandwidth no problem. All new Freebox HD subscribers will have this feature turned on by default, so we assume that also means you can turn it off if you're concerned about privacy. Now for those of you who might not be familiar with Free, it isn't just your garden-variety ISP, no sir. For €30 per month ($38), Free will give you a pair of boxes (known collectively as the Freebox) that comes with a DSL modem at 24Mbps, includes a digital TV receiver, 4-port switch / WiFi router with MIMO, built-in VoIP with free calls to 28 countries, and can stream TV to your computer and DVDs from your computer to your TV. Also, Free recently introduced two new handsets (pictured): its white model (WiFi-only) goes for €60 ($75), while the black model is WiFi and GSM and goes for €200 ($250). So to recap, let's say you want to roam around l'Hexagone with your laptop or your WiFi handset, and you're a Free subscriber, then you've now got one of (potentially) 300,000 locations around the country to choose from. Some industry watchers like Yannick Laclau are convinced that if companies like France Telecom or Telefonica (Spain's incumbent telco) or Verizon were to make a move à la Free, it would mean better and less expensive service for everyone, and also might wipe out FON in the process.

Read - GigaOm
Read - Yannick Laclau
Read - Net Economie

In this article: fon, france, free, free.fr, gsm, isp, wifi
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