I did, did I? Now, I won. Paris, I Rap.*
I’ve got my new Free Mobile phone and the number is totally cool. The first four digits are a mirror image of the last four digits — a “palindrome” — “a word, phrase, number, or other sequence of units that can be read the same way in either direction” (Wikipedia.org)…like “racecar” or “rotator” or “reviver.”
Free is just that…almost. It’s the new deal that Iliad’s Free.fr has offered up making it the most competitive provider on the mobile phone market in France. For 16.99€/19.99€ per month, Free’s new mobile offers unlimited calling to cell phones in the USA, Canada, Alaska and Hawaii along with fixed lines to 40 destinations worldwide, plus WiFi and 3G Internet access up to 3gigs. And get ready for this…for 0€/2€ per month, you can get 60 minutes of calls and 60 SMS in France.
The difference in the rates depends on if you are already a Free subscriber with a system at home (Internet/telephone/television) or not, but either way, none of the other providers can touch it…and for that price, you might as well have a phone even if you come to France only once a year.
The catch is, of course, that you need a bank account in France from which the monthly charge will be automatically deducted (prélèvement). Have a friend living in France? Perhaps they won’t mind making their bank account available to you (as long as you pay them back, of course).
You can use an existing phone number and roll it over into the new Free Mobile number…as long as you can get out of your current phone subscription. Mine has been SFR for many years, which you may recall from past missives, has not always been the best of providers. Last August when I was traveling in Israel, SFR charged me over 600€ for “WAP sessions” that were not of my doing! Then, they refused to refund any of it…until I sent a registered letter to over a dozen presidents, vice-presidents and managers to which they responded immediately! (Visit Thinking Inside the Box (Free, SFR, Darty, Orange, etc.) to read all about it.)
This time around, SFR said my contract wasn’t up until May 2013 and to cancel it would cost me over 600€ (why is this the magic figure?), but that I could reduce my subscription to 29€ a month (from what I spend now, about 160€!).
Do the math. In 13 months, the contract is up, at 377€ instead. Meanwhile, I’ve reduced my monthly expense by about 100€, increased the coverage further reducing expense and gotten a really cool phone number in the process.
The only drawback is changing the number that’s on every business card and contact info, and while SFR will automatically forward calls to the new number, that costs per call — defeating the purpose. So, for the moment, I am carrying two phones…until everyone has the new number and I can leave the old one at home or let a visiting friend use it. Decisions, decisions.
It’s tough to keep up with technology and for whatever reason, it seems to move even faster in France, from a consumer point of view. Now that Free.fr has the mobile phone industry in a tizzy, the competitors (France Telecom, SFR and Bouygues) are scrambling to find an even better offering. Clearly when I called to reduce the monthly subscription and openly said “because I have a new and less expensive provider,” I wasn’t the only one doing the same thing. They must be losing business right and left.
Just a few days ago, a Reuters article pointed out that France Telecom holds a roaming contract with Iliad, Free’s parent company, for areas where Free hasn’t yet built a network that will be renegotiated and that the price war has already begun. But already, the estimate is that Free has 1.5 million subscribers. I’m just one of them…but not everyone got such a cool number.
*”Paris, I rap” is from Palindrome of the Day.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Guess what? We’re filming another House Hunter’s International program this coming weekend…this time in the suburbs of Paris! Stay tuned for more information on this and the other shows that air from time to time.