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The August 21, 2003 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Voice is "Free"

Free Telecom, the largest French ISP after France Telecom, has joined the "we'll add voice for free" parade. It's the latest example of disruptive technology in action. Free has been deploying DSLAMs all over France to deliver 2 Mbps broadband service to residential users for less than 30 euros per month. On July 31 Free announced that they will be offering free VoIP phone calls to all their DSL subscribers.

Fabien Maisl, Director of Communications and Partnerships at Cirpack, which is providing the next-gen telephony infrastructure, provided us the details, since our French is pretty shaky:

  • The French regulator has ruled that Free can provide their subscribers with phone numbers charged as local calls from anywhere in France, using the 0 870 numbers. This means that whenever someone calls a Free subscriber, they'll only pay for a local call.
  • The voice service is included in the monthly 29,99 of the 2048 kbits DSL service for any wireline number within France, with no additional fee from the August 25th start date until the end of 2003.
  • Starting 01/01/2004, Free subscribers can make unlimited calls to other Free subscribers, and can call France Telecom subscribers for a maximum of 10 hours per month and then are billed 0.01 / minute.
  • A large number of Free subscribers already have a VoIP enabled DSL modem, and will be able to activate online starting August 25th.

According to Free Telecom has designed its own customer premises equipment. It is called the Freebox and includes Ethernet, USB telephone and video interfaces and is manufactured in France.

Fabien has offered to introduce us to Free Telecom's COO, since both he and we are speaking at Broadband World Forum, so we'll be able to follow up with more first-hand information next month.

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