Less than two years after the release of the Delta Freebox, Illiad, Free’s parent company, is about to launch its new box, called Freebox V8. Illiad’s managing director Thomas Reynaud announced this in an interview with Les Echos. “I’m announcing that in the coming weeks we will be launching the Freebox V8,” he said without giving further details. According to a specialized blog, this new box could run Android TV, Google’s connected TV device, which integrates Google Assistant and a multitude of apps. It should be an intermediate box, for a mid-range, in other words a mass market. It could replace the Freebox mini 4K.
In September 2019, Xavier Niel, Illiad’s founder and largest shareholder, hinted that a new generation of Freebox could arrive before the end of 2019. With the Freebox Delta, Free’s new star product, the operator has presented itself as at the forefront of innovation, outpacing other operators in the high-end market. Since its introduction almost a year ago, SFR has reacted with a nearby product, the SFR Box 8. Free has always presented this product, relatively expensive compared to the market — 49.99 euros per month — as a multimedia platform for access to many services: a “security pack” with surveillance camera and alarm system, the “TV by Canal” offer, a Netflix subscription (on a single screen and without HD), a press kiosk, a connected speaker, a voice command with Amazon, and the built-in Amazon Prime service.
Free is banking on fibre to rebound commercially as it has lost hundreds of thousands of mobile subscribers over the past two years. In the third quarter of 2019, Iliad also benefited from the “success” of its Delta Freebox, which allowed it to remain stable on equipment sales. Thomas Reynaud reveals to Les Echos that “the milestone of 2 million fibre subscribers will soon be crossed”. Regarding the 5G which is due to arrive in France in 2020, Free has signed with Nokia, like Orange, which will also work with Ericsson, for the deployment of this technology. Nevertheless, Thomas Reynaud wants the government to clarify its position on the oEMs authorized to build future 5G mobile networks in France and wants to maintain “flexibility” in its choices.
“We need to maintain the flexibility to work with all OEMs. (…) What we are asking for above all is a clarification with the same rules for each of the four operators (Orange, Bouygues Telecom, SFR and Free, NDLR). It is a question of fair competition and visibility for our investments,” he added. Decisions on this subject by SFR and Bouygues Telecom, the only French operators to use Huawei antennas to equip part of their 4G networks, are expected in the coming weeks, after being validated by the French authorities.
This topic has become sensitive and strategic because the US authorities accuse Huawei, very advanced on 5G, of being able to use its equipment for the purpose of espionage for the benefit of Beijing by disclosing data about their customers, which the group refutes Chinese.