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Free records strongest fixed-line growth in seven years

French service provider Free appears to have weathered the COVID-19 storm well, becoming the leading recruiter of new fixed-network subscribers for the first time in seven years in its second quarter numbers.

The operator added 65,000 fixed broadband customers, taking its total to 6.572 million. Free said that its success in fixed had subsequently been further boosted by the success of the Freebox Pop, launched in July. The operator has also ‘simplified’ its offers in fixed.

The launch of Freebox Pop means that new users can choose between four boxes – the others being Freebox Delta, Freebox mini 4K and Freebox Révolution.

Free upped the price of its top-tier Freebox Delta offering from 39.99 for the first year to €49.99, with the Player Pop included alongside services Netflix, Amazon Prime and TV by Canal.

Free was also the number one recruiter of fibre customers in Q2, in this case for the fifth consecutive quarter. it added 243,000 new fibre customers in the quarter in France, taking its base past the two million mark to 2.218 million.

Free also added 80,000 mobile customers in Q2, taking its total to 13.406 million, with strong growth in its unlimited 4G offering more than offsetting a decline in voice-only customers. In Italy, where Free offers a mobile-only service, the operator added 454,000 customers in the quarter to take its total to 6.26 million, with an 8% share of the market.

Fixed-line ARPU did decline however, as price competition impacted the market, with fixed broadband ARPU declining from €32.40 to €31.90 year on year. Mobile ARPU increased marginally over the same period.

Overall revenue was up 6.7% in Q2 to €1.4 billion, boosted by Italy. In frace, revenue rose by 1.9% to €1.24 billion. EBITDAaL rose by 9.4% to €876 million, with an improvement in profitability in France adding to the impact of reduced losses in Italy.

“The first stage of our Odyssée 2024 transformation plan has succeeded, since we have recorded a strong rebound in our commercial performance and a return to growth. The demand of French people for fibre and the success of the launch of the Freebox Pop has led us to revise upwards our objectives in fibre. We are now moving into the second phase of the Odyssée 2024 plan with numerous projects to get underway in the next few quarters, notably the launch of B2B activities in France and fixed in Italy,” said Iliad Telecom/Free CEO Thomas Reynaud.