European Communications

Last update12:32:11 PM

Free Mobile hits back at “organised smear campaign” and threatens legal action

Free Mobile, the newly launched mobile operator in France, has defended its reputation after rivals questioned its methods.

The operator has been accused of providing poor network coverage and of being overly reliant on the roaming contract it has with France-Telecom Orange since launching in January.

However, Free said in a statement that it was the first operator to fulfill its 3G coverage obligations within the license deadlines.

“The three historical operators fulfilled their 3G coverage obligations only when they were served notice and after several years of delay,” it said.

Free did admit that its coverage was “currently discontinuous”. Specifically, it said its “indoor” coverage was being carried in roaming mode and had “fallen short”.

According to Free, this is due to the fact that the 900 MHz frequencies it has been allocated and which cover dense areas, will be available only as of 1 January 2013.

Free also said it is facing “severe difficulties” in accessing the sites owned by some historical operators who “are heaping technical and economic requirements to avoid accommodating a competitor”.

Despite this, it said it was investing heavily in its mobile network as roaming was a “valuable but pricy alternative”.

By the end of 2012, Free said it will have over 2,500 active sites; within six years it estimated it would spend an aggregate total of €1 billion on the network.

The company also threatened to take rivals to court in the future: “As of this day, Free Mobile will take legal action against anyone who makes disparaging statements about the veracity of its coverage or its investments,” it said.

Parent company Groupe Iliad released 2011 figures that showed revenues increasing four percent year-on-year to €2.2 billion.