Niel started out as a businessman who ran an adult chat service on Minitel (pre-internet version of internet in France). Next, he established Freeview, a set-top box which gave users the internet, television and telephone services all in one go, at cheaper rates. Niel has not stopped since then. Recently, he started making waves in the mobile phone market when he started offering unlimited calls, text messaging services and around 3GB of data – all for 19.99 euros per month. Another package gives users 60 minutes of calls and 60 messages – both for 2 euros per month.
Niel seemed inspired by Steve Jobs when he said this last week, “We are sick and tired of being ripped off with the highest prices in Europe.” He promised that his company will ‘liberate’ users from the clutches of huge corporations.
When Freeview announced the cheap mobile phone rates, their website was flooded with orders and crashed. This triggered a frantic rush by competing mobile phone companies in France to cut their prices and offer cheaper mobile plans.
A Gartner technology analyst Jessica Ekholm had this to say, “This is some much-needed competition coming in to the French market…. They’re obviously trying to shake things up.” Research by Gartner shows that the highest paying consumers in Western Europe come from France.
Olivier Gayraud, a member of the French consumer rights group CLCV said, “The fact that Free arrived with this price clearly rebooted competition, which was largely absent on the market. Traditional operators were working up to now with a gross margin of 30 to 40 percent.”