By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO Chairman
French broadband service provider Free – owned by Groupe Iliad – yesterday became the first major ISP in Europe to launch a Wi-Fi 7 service. Free’s fibre-based access network will allow the new ‘Freebox Ultra’ gateway and repeater to deliver up to 8 Gbps of symmetrical connectivity per household to as many as 35 million homes across France, the company said. Free’s Wi-Fi 7 service is powered by Qualcomm’s Networking Pro 820 platform.
Groupe Iliad’s Free has a knack for challenging the competition and taking commanding leads on the highly competitive home broadband market in France – and now Free is using the latest Wi-Fi standard to get ahead. At a press event yesterday in Paris, Free unveiled their new Freebox Ultra Wi-Fi 7-based service, which the company says will deliver up to 8 Gbps of symmetrical data rate.
Being the first major ISP in Europe to launch a Wi-Fi 7 service is remarkable – but perhaps even more remarkable is the price tag: Free is now offering the up to 8 Gbps symmetrical service for as little as €39.99 (US$43.30) per month for the first year, then €49.99 (US$54.20) per month). The starting price is only €2 (US$2.20) more than Orange France’s top tier ‘Livebox Max Fiber’ offer based on fibre and Wi-Fi 6E, which delivers up to 5 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload.
“Wi-Fi 7 gives Freebox Ultra subscribers the fastest Wi-Fi available on the market, with unprecedented speeds of up to 6 Gbps when multiple devices are connected simultaneously. That’s up to five times faster than the Wi-Fi 6 used in the previous Freebox generation,” Free says. The Freebox Ultra bundle includes a Wi-Fi 7-capable repeater also designed in-house by Free, the company says.
Free is also touting its focus on sustainability with a new eco-friendly ‘total sleep mode’ that reduces gateway energy consumption by as much as 95%. Sustainability is also a stronghold of competitor Orange’s Wi-Fi 6E-capable Livebox 7 gateway, which features intelligent power management by gateway software provider and Wi-Fi NOW partner Soft At Home – read more here.
Qualcomm says Free’s fast launch of Wi-Fi 7-based services is a testament to the exceptional quality of collaboration between the Qualcomm & Free engineering teams as well as excellent leadership. “The objectives were clear from the beginning: Free wanted to launch early and around the time of Wi-Fi 7 certification. At the same time, there’s tremendous engineering talent on both sides, agility, and great leadership skills. As a result Free has set the bar for what consumers can now expect from their service provider. We believe we’ll see many more carriers adopting Wi-Fi 7 quickly,” says Ganesh Swaminathan, VP & General Manager at Qualcomm.
French operators have been among the first to adopt new 6 GHz technology and in particular Wi-Fi 6E. Both Orange and Bouygues launched Wi-Fi 6E-capable gateways in early 2022, and Orange has since updated its gateway design with the Livebox 7. For more on sustainable gateway solutions including intelligent energy management also see this white paper.
Free’s new Wi-Fi 7-based services is available immediately.
Corrections: A previous version of this story stated that Free’s new service is the first Wi-Fi 7 service in the world. This is not correct. Singtel of Singapore has also launched a Wi-Fi 7 service. We then corrected the article to state that Free is ‘the first in ISP in Europe’ offering Wi-Fi 7. This turned out also to be incorrect – principally because fibre-based operator Lounea of Finland also has announced a Wi-Fi 7 service. We apologise to all the mistakes. If you are aware of others, please write me at [email protected].