French broadband internet provider and would-be mobile start-up Iliad (Free) has secured a EUR1.4 billion (USD1.7 billion) five-year credit facility from a group of eight European banks to help refinance its debt ahead of its launch of mobile services in the country. Dow Jones Newswires reports the firm as saying that the agreement, along with its existing cash flow, will enable Iliad to fund its medium-term growth strategy. The statement went on to say that the credit line illustrates the company enjoys a healthy position as one a European operators with a very low level of debt.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that the French telecoms regulator Arcep concluded the formal handover of the country’s fourth 3G licence to Iliad’s Free Mobile unit in January this year. The Iliad group subsequently committed to launching its network within two years of the award of the licence, which took place on 18 December 2009. The newcomer has pledged to cover at least 90% of the population with its 3G network within eight years of launch, and its promise to deliver ‘competitive prices’ should spur growth in the mobile internet access segment. Free Mobile has also committed to hosting mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Industry watchers are in broad agreement that Iliad could realistically garner a roughly 5% share of the EUR25 billion (USD36 billion) French mobile market by 2015. The operator has a strong fixed line presence and comprehensive broadband portfolio, and has been actively trying to secure a toehold in the mobile market since it failed in its first application attempt in 2007.