Wifi + Mobile + HD + DTTV + ADSL + S/PDIF + Wimax + ...
Free is a broadband operator in France, and in the past, they did some very bold moves and really changed the broadband landscape. Basically they were among the first to leverage the unbundling of the local loop, and they positioned themselves as the first 'alternative' broadband operator. They started as a 'standard' ISP (POTS / ISDN) but in 2003, they launched the first "Triple play" offer. A custom hardware (the 'Freebox') that provided ADSL access, along with TV and telephone. What's interesting there is that they pushed the envelope both on the feature set, and the price: for 29.99 euros (about $35), you had full ADSL bandwidth (not capped at 512k or 1 Mbits), 'free' phone calls in France (not including mobiles) and TV channels.
In october 2004, they released a new Freebox and upgraded their DSLAM to ADSL2+. For the same 29.99 euro per month, you now had 20 Mbps (maximum bandwidth - basically you have what your line length allows). They added some features in 2005: a vlc-based software to stream mpeg to your TV or to watch TV on the computer, free calls to many international destinations (USA, Germany, Singapore, ...)
There is some background information in english on their site (esp. the slide shows and press releases).
But now, they're releasing another new box, the Freebox HD. And things are getting really interesting:
- Same 29.99 euros/month fee
- Same ADSL 2+
- Wireless router, apparently 802.11n based, with Wifi Mimo,
- 1 USB port
- 5 ethernet ports
- SD / HD video decoder
- DTTV receiver
- S-Video, composite, HDMI, S/PDIF (optical+coax) connectors
- IR receiver with remote control
- According to some reports, there's a 40 Gb hard drive. Which could enable interesting uses in the future: PVR, HD VoD temporary storage, ...
The icing on the cake ? The box can act as a mobile phone access point. If you have a dual wifi-GSM mobile phone, and if you activate your Free mobile phone account for 9.99 e (one-time fee), you will transparently use the Freebox... and if you're in the street with your wifi-gsm mobile and if there's a Freebox HD around, it will use it to place your call. Basically, they want to create an urban mesh of Freebox HD and be a disruptive mobile operator. They also plan to offer a wifi-gsm phone in september for about 200 euros ($245).
Oh. And Free is a WiMax operator.
The press release is now available in english.
Because they use the SIP protocol, you can still forward the SIP ***outside*** the FreeBox, to any other SIP box (LinkSys PAP2 for example), with quality improvement (the PAP2 allow "better" SIP codecs...), and... when the SIP box is connected to the Internet, the call are forwarded to that place... I try it with success in Hong Kong and Thailand: when I got a call, I pickup the phone where I connect the PAP2, so, the caller pay nearly nothing for that call. Also when I call France from anywhere (connected to Intenet), my calls are free for me (except the adsl cost, in Internet cafe...)
do someone know about operators in other countries that offer this kind of wifi access ?
And what, if to us to look at this question from other point of view?