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Eurobites: FreedomPop Heads to Europe

Paul Rainford
7/11/2014
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Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: UK operators welcome data law change; BT has its day in court, and bags a Special One; VDSL2 boost in France.

  • FreedomPop , the disruptive US wireless service provider that offers free voice, text, and data to its customers, has struck an MVNO deal with BASE , the Belgian mobile operator owned by Dutch incumbent KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN), and plans to launch in multiple other European markets. "We have proved that a freemium model works economically for our company, our network hosting partners and most importantly, the consumer," said FreedomPop founder and COO Steven Sesar in a statement issued by BASE. "We have been getting a ton of interest from consumers across the globe and now along with international carriers like BASE Company we are excited to broaden our footprint to Europe through this first agreement in Belgium." And BASE seems pretty pumped by having the upstart service provider on its network. "FreedomPop is a challenger, just like us, and represents the kind of innovative service model that will deliver both growth and value," said CEO Jos Donvil. FreedomPop will launch in Belgium by offering SIM-based mobile plans (but not devices) that include a "base amount of complimentary data, voice and text each month coupled to a range of value added services and additional low cost options for higher consumption users." A launch date for the service in Belgium has not been set. FreedomPop, which is backed by DCM Capital, Mangrove Capital Partners and Atomico Ventures (run by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom), launched in the US in October 2012 and has signed up more than 250,000 users. (See FreedomPop Grabs $5M to Support Android Push.)

  • UK mobile operators have broadly welcomed the British government's plan to rush through emergency legislation on data retention, reports the Financial Times (subscription required). After a European Court of Justice ruling in April, operators had been uncertain of where they stood on the issue of retaining customers' personal phone data for possible use by the authorities, and the feeling is that this new legislation will clarify their responsibilities. One source told the FT: "If they hadn't done this, it would have been difficult to carry on holding data." It will be interesting to see if other EU countries follow the UK's lead on this.

  • BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has won a UK Supreme Court ruling allowing it to change the prices it charges mobile operators to use its fixed-line network to call "non-geographic" numbers that begin with "08." Bloomberg reports that Vodafone, EE, Telefónica (O2) and 3 had their joint appeal dismissed, though they plan to review the judgement.

  • The fate of the proposed €13.5 billion (US$18.3 billion) acquisition of French mobile operator SFR by Numericable-SFR won't be decided until the third quarter, reports Reuters. The competition watchdog will pronounce on that deal and Numericable's proposed acquisition of Virgin Mobile at the same time. (See Eurobites: Numericable Wins SFR M&A Tussle.)

  • Still in France, regulator ARCEP 's expert committee on copper networks has given its approval to the extension of VDSL2 technology throughout Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s French network. See Arcep's release on the matter for more details.

  • Bahrain's Viva has become the latest operator to join the Bridge Alliance, a partnership of 36 mobile operators in Africa and Asia.

  • The European Commission has launched the "Connected Communities" initiative, inviting interested parties to submit their planned projects for connecting towns and cities for a chance to win funding and other support.

  • To some, including himself, he's the Special One. To others he's the Especially Irritating One. Step forward Jose Mourinho, current coach of ritzy English soccer club Chelsea FC and now also, apparently, BT latest star signing for its BT Sport TV channel. In its release, BT says Mourinho will be "acting as a football expert," a description that is bound to go down well with the gobby Portuguese.

    Jose Mourinho: He's only acting, you know.
    Jose Mourinho: He's only acting, you know.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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    SachinEE
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    SachinEE,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    7/29/2014 | 6:55:28 AM
    Re: The special one
    He has been in the news for all the right and all the wrong reasons, depending on how you choose to look at it, over the last five years but one thing remains true- he really knows how to attract media attention. So bringing him into a TV show, especially a new one at that is nothing short of a genius move. You can be sure that the viewership of the show will definitely be boosted by his presence regardless of whether the people watching are true fans or critics waiting for him to goof and, honestly, what more could any television network want from its newest employee. Plus, he really understands the game.
    SachinEE
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    SachinEE,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    7/29/2014 | 6:41:02 AM
    Re: Freedom POP
    I first heard about the spectacular services provided by this company sometime in 2012 and over the 2 years since then I have been a very close follower of their work. The latest move by the company to bring BASE to their network of partners is a forward thinking strategy and one that will definitely help them establish a strong foothold in Europe. However, I still think that BASE got the better end of the deal considering the unique services that Freedom will be bringing to the table and the fact that consumers, no matter what part of the world they come from, will always love free things even if they are only packaged as such and not truly free.
    Susan Fourtané
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    Susan Fourtané,
    User Rank: Blogger
    7/14/2014 | 11:31:31 AM
    Re: Connected Europe
    nasimson, 

    True. I said many sectors, though. :) What I would like to know is which countries are the ones with more need of a broadband project.

    -Susan 
    nasimson
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    nasimson,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    7/14/2014 | 11:20:46 AM
    Re: Connected Europe
    Not just healthcare Susan. For MOCC, connected classrooms, citizen journalism, small service oriented businesses, etc., its a must-have enabler.
    Joe Stanganelli
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    Joe Stanganelli,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    7/13/2014 | 8:33:21 AM
    FreedomPop
    This is cool news as a matter of carrier-liberation (although Europe doesn't face quite the same carrier oppression we do in the US because of the "global" GSM tech deployed in European phones).

    Is anybody here a FreedomPop customer?  I've been considering switching.
    Susan Fourtané
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    Susan Fourtané,
    User Rank: Blogger
    7/13/2014 | 4:52:57 AM
    Connected Europe
    The European Commission's initiative to bring fast broadband to cities and communities is great news. I hope they will receive plenty of good projects to have the chance to win funding.

    Broadband is a necessity for everyone and a must have for many sectors such as healthcare.

    -Susan
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