French service provider Free has launched a new entry-level 4K small form factor set-top box, the Freebox Mini 4K, to replace its existing Crystal device, allowing it to claim a stake as the first operator globally to launch a 4K box.
The Freebox Mini 4K offering will be available to Free subscribers for €29.99 a month. The box integrates Google’s Android TV software and the device is five times smaller than the previous device.
Free will provide the box in place of the Crystal to new subscribers to its unbundled DSL and fibre offerings. The company will continue to offer its Freebox Révolution high-end set-top and gateway combination as a premium service. The Mini is also available as an option for Freebox Révolution subscribers for €1.99 a month.
The Freebox Mini 4K package for €29.99 includes internet, phone service, access via the TV to the Google Play Store, Google Play Films, games, music and YouTube and 200 channels including 49 in HD. It also provides access to catch-up TV, VoD and SVoD, DVR services via a USB key or external hard drive, and voice-enabled search.
The box includes an A15 dual-core processer, with 2GB of RAM, and decodes HEVC/H.265 video.
Free says it is also the first triple-play operators to provide an Android TV-based box, giving access to the full range of Google services. The box is Google Cast-ready, enabling users to view personal and internet media from their tablet or PC direct on the TV.
The set-top is packaged with a ADSL, VDSL and FTTH-compatible modem, the Freebox Mini 4K Server, with eSata and USB ports to attach an external hard drive and four GbE ports. The server also includes an integrated Femtocell to enable users to optimize their mobile connection inside the home.
Free operator Iliad Telecom’s announcement came as a surprise in France. Journalists were only invited to this morning’s launch press conference yesterday, leading to market speculation that the operator may be about to launch a price offensive in mobile and a fall in the share price of rival operators SFR-Numericable, Orange and Bouygues as well as a fall in Iliad Telecom’s own price.