Free preparing new box as it seeks to revive struggling fixed business

French service provider Free has announced a series of measures to improve its performance in the fixed market, including the launch of new set-top boxes, following a reversal of fortunes in the first half of the year.

Free has adjusted its profit guidelines for the year after suffering a loss of mobile and fixed subscribers year-on-year in the first half and a slight reduction in profit and revenue.

Free, which has played a major role as a disruptor in the French market, in particular in mobile, said it was taking a “new commercial approach” to recruiting fixed subscribers after a disappointing first half “in the context of a highly competitive market”.

The operator said that mobile and fixed recruitment had recovered somewhat in July and August.

Free also said it planned to launch a new range of boxes to fortify its fixed business, without giving further details. Free/Iliad Telecom co-founder Xavier Niel had already revealed in June that the Freebox V7 would be unveiled this month, and that it would be “very advanced and disruptive” with the potential to boost growth in the company’s fixed base. However, no details have been released about the underlying technology or functionality of the device.

To make up lost ground in the fixed market, Free has also introduced new offers debuting in June, ranging from €9.99 to €19.99 for the first 12 months before reverting to the normal price range of between €24.99 and €44.99. The operator is also engaging in a new drive to increase customer loyalty and to accelerate migration to its fibre offering.

In mobile, Free lost 70,000 subscribers, which it blamed on intense competition in the entry-level segment.

Free had more success in signing up customers to its fibre offering, with 178,000 new subscribers taking its total to 1.7 million, and in Italy, where its recently launched mobile service had attracted 1.5 million customers by the beginning of August.

Free posted a 0.2% decline in revenues from France for the first half, driven into negative territory by a 2.2% drop in fixed revenue. The company improved its overall profitability, with an EBITDA margin of 37.3% and EBITDA growth of €20 million to €894 million.

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