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Free stirs up mobile market with 4G offer

AFP/The Local · 3 Dec 2013, 17:46

Published: 03 Dec 2013 17:46 GMT+01:00

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Low-cost telecom company Free stirred up France's mobile phone market on Tuesday by announcing an offer that includes 4G data services without additional cost to the customer.

The company -- which burst into existence by pushing down prices for home telephone, television and Internet service - did the same for mobile phones when it became France's fourth operator in 2012.

The mobile market in France was thrown into turmoil when Free launched and imcediately offered monthly contracts for as little as €2.

Forced into a price war, France's main operators - Orange, SFR and Bouygues -saw earnings slump, but were hoping to recover by charging a premium for the new generation service.

Although Free became instantly famous for its unbeatable prices it was also notorious for its poor coverage in certain areas.

Shortly after their announcement on Tuesday France’s Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon “invited customers to check the maps showing the coverage before making their choice.”

Hamon and Fluer Pellerin, the minister for small businesses also sent out a reminder that mobile companies were required to offer clear information to customers about the extent of their coverage.

Free's owner Xavier Niel also said on Tuesday it would provide even more data as part of is standard 20 euro ($27) per month package.

Story continues below…

The announcement hit the share price of its competitors. Shares in Orange dropped 3.0 percent 9.25 euros. Bouygues fell 3.1 percent to 26.86 euros. SFR-owner Vivendi slid 2.3 percent to 18.19 euros.

Shares in Free parent company Iliad, owned by tycoon Xavier Niel, climbed 0.66 percent to 174.40 euros.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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