Iliad-owned Free has been a major innovator and disruptor in France’s cellular, broadband and pay TV markets. Now it has launched Europe’s first 4K capable, Android TV set-top box.
Free has used Broadcom’s 4K chipset to produce a world-class 4K-capable Android TV STB called Freebox that’ll provide triple play services at the same €30 ($32) per month as the prior non-4K model. (Yes! €30 ($32) per month for broadband, pay TV and telephone service.) It’s a major move for Free, one that is sure to be felt by all of Free’s competitors.
Customers of Free’s premium Freebox Revolution STB will be able to add a mini 4K box for €1.99 ($2.14) a month.
The major functions of the Freebox are:
– For starters, the Freebox uses Google’s Android TV platform, which means users can access Google Play Store, Films, Games, Music and, the world’s most popular OTT service, YouTube.
– In addition to Google Play, Free has developed its own apps including its Video Club VOD services and access to content from the Canal+ and CanalSat.
– It supports the telcos’ ADSL2+, VDSL 2 and fiber broadband.
– The 11ac version of Wi-Fi with speeds of up to 450 Mbps in and around the home, thanks to Broadcom chips.
– A built-in Femtocell helps mobile phone users that live in areas where cellular reception is poor.
– Oh, it has 200 pay TV channels with 49 of them in HD but none so far in 4K. For 4K, users will have to access an OTT service over Free’s broadband network. A UHD TV set is needed to view 4K content regardless of the content’s source.
– The Free box has both a standard remote and voice control, which can even be verbally commanded to perform a search.
– It is five times smaller than the prior STB.
Free from Iliad: Trojan warriors not included
Free, which began offering a cheap, no-contract cellular service in 2012, also stirred up the cellular market anew by announcing that subscribers to its triple-play Free boxes can receive up to four — as opposed to the prior two — mobile subscriptions, at a €4 ($4.30) discount or €16 a month. Free has about 14% of the French cellular market.
Broadcom’s BCM7252 STB system-on-chip (SoC) enables the box to provide streaming, terrestrial, on-demand and recorded content in SD, HD and 4K. Broadcom’s chips are the first to support 4Kp60 10-bit HEVC content. They also support HDMI 2.0.
Broadcom provides both the chipset that goes in the STB and the one that goes in the remote, which uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to enable such streaming features as Google Cast.
Broadcom has been far and away the leader in chips for 4K capable STBs and UHD TV sets. India’s satellite TV services, Tata Sky and Videocon d2h, have publicly committed to using Broadcom’s chips in their 4K STBs. Dish and TiVo have demonstrated STBs with Broadcom’s 4K chipsets.
Iliad founder, Xavier Niel, said at the launch in Paris, “The fixed business is our core” because the company first built its wireline footprint band then added cellular services. Echoes of what the cablecos are doing!
Rich Nelson, SVP of Broadcom’s marketing, broadband and connectivity group, said that because its chips support Android TV, Free will be able to provide “exciting 4K content in addition to all the benefits of the Android TV ecosystem.”
Free general manager Sébastien Boutruche said its customers “will enjoy the stunning clarity of Ultra HD 4K content.”
In September, 2014, Free had 5.8 million broadband subscribers and 9.6 million mobile subscribers.
We think Free will be able to use the Freebox to …
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