Free.fr is freer via WiFi

The maverick French broadband service provider, Iliad, and the company behind the Free, broadband service has made a habit of anticipating disruption; embracing it and then extending. Cheap broadband – they did that. Cheap (and almost free) Voice – they did that. Cheap IPTV, check. So what’s next to do? Open up wireless (WiFi) networks for one and all, and thus create one giant mesh.

Here is how it is works: the new set-top box from the company, called (what else) Freebox, has FoN like wireless network sharing features built into it, and thus every one of its 300,000 boxes can become part of a big wifi mesh. They are using WiFi with MIMO technology in their boxes. Basically if you have a wifi phone (or a laptop) you can hop on to one of these networks and stay connected.


The company is also introducing two special phones – one pure WiFi phone and the other is a combo WiFi/GSM phone.

Our friend, Yannick Laclau thinks that in one swoop, FON is squashed. “I think all this highlights that operators still have a lot of leverage here to make things happen, and quickly, *if* they have the will to do it,” he writes. Or perhaps, this means FoN could become a quick way for an incumbent to do roll out their own network. Not taking sides, just taking into account Martin Varsavsky’s ability to flip companies.

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