20051226

Free WIMAX and quadruple play

Iliad remains a great wonder in the ever consolidating telecom world. When the minitel specialist launched its disruptive None Networks in the late 90s, I must confess I didn't think they could last very long. Freesbee (now the triple-and-soon-quadruple player Free) looked like the kind of free ISPs the founders would sell right before the bubble burst.
But they're damn good at what they do and since they're actually free, they don't have to cope with international partners and don't care about standardization* : they can go straight to the point with the solution they need, even if they have to develop it for themselves. The Freebox was the ultimate proof of their ability to deliver the goods - even technically tricky ones - with a very aggressive TTM. From an ADSL2+ basis, they recently reached 174 / 18 Mbit rates with a home made "F-ADSL". "Asynchronous" ? You bet, from a competitor's point of view. And it shows in the "Digital Subscriber Lines" : two thirds of Free's 1.5M ADSL customers (France Telecom's main challenger) can enjoy TV over DSL (Europe's leader). Following the deal with Altitude Telecom, Free enjoys a nationwide Wimax license and announces disruptive quadruple play offers... nothing seems to stop them. Hell, thanks to Michaël Boukobza's well deserved aura, Iliad even survived a nasty scandal involving its founder Xavier Niel.
2006 looks like another make or break year and could turn out to be both the best and the worst year to confront France's big guys : the 3 MNOs have just been heavily fined for anti-competitive behaviors and the broadcasting landscape is being totally reshuffled after the CanalSat - TPS deal.
Guess what ? All could face yet another disruptive new entrant.



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