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Thread: Going to France...Anyone Use Free Mobile?

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    Going to France...Anyone Use Free Mobile?

    http://mobile.free.fr/fiche-forfait-free.html

    20 euros/ mo for a boatload of data. Possibly able to roam with a boatload of data to the rest of EU and USA.

    Apparently most service comes from self service kiosks (en Francaise seulement). We will be flying into La Rochelle in October so might give it a go, but was just wondering if anyone had any experience in France.

    I hate the name... almost impossible to Google it.
    Enjoy Lycamobile...the Ryanair of mobile phone service providers
    Air , Water , Fire....LYCA

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    >I hate the name... almost impossible to Google it.

    Not really.

    http://google.com/search?q=%22free+m...+france+review

    https://monreseaumobile.fr

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    Quote Originally Posted by e.mote View Post
    >I hate the name... almost impossible to Google it.

    Not really.

    http://google.com/search?q=%22free+m...+france+review

    https://monreseaumobile.fr
    None of the carriers have a good 1 month 10+ GB data plan. Orange is only good for 14 days. Bouyges and SFR are relatively expensive for the data provided. I can probably put up with the limitations of "Free" if I can find and work through one of those automated kiosks.

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    Comments:

    . Yes, Free Mobile is cheapest, and its coverage deficiency is irrelevant if you're planning only to stay in a big city and not traipse around in the countryside. But note the drastic drop in coverage quality (16% vs others' 60%) for Free while in a moving vehicle/train. Also, Free's customer service unsurprisingly sucks, if you ever need it.

    . Note that there are different rates for tourists and "natives." "Native" plans require a French bankcard and a verifiable (French) address. The above Free rate is good for both, and as you said, for other providers it's much worse for tourists. So if you want lots of GBs (Go), you don't have much of a choice other than Free Mobile.

    . BTW, the abovementioned plan is reported to be €30 (€20 plan + €10 SIM),

    https://traveltomtom.net/destination...card-in-france

    Another site said it's €25 (€20 plan + €10 activation - €5 new customer discount), but mentions that you have to physically go to Free Mobile store in Paris to cancel the subscription.

    https://eurocheapo.com/blog/best-sim...to-france.html

    Again, if you want heavy data, Free looks to be the only choice for cheap. But it's not functional while travelling, so you're limited to stationary use. If that's the case, and if you're in a big city, then wifi hotspots (plus a light data plan) looks to be the better choice.

    You can also google French MVNOs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rs899 View Post
    None of the carriers have a good 1 month 10+ GB data plan. Orange is only good for 14 days. Bouyges and SFR are relatively expensive for the data provided. I can probably put up with the limitations of "Free" if I can find and work through one of those automated kiosks.
    The plan you cite in your original post is for a monthly subscription intended for French residents, which probably requires you to have a French bank account, French ID and French residence.

    It is incorrect to state that Orange only offers a maximum of 14 days, they offer data recharges that can last as long as six months.

    In my opinion, your best bet would be to go to an Orange store and purchase a "Domino" hotspot that will come with some GBs of data. You can then recharge by phone, but only by calling a number reachable only in France and only if you have a Carte Bancaire associated with a French bank account. A U.S. credit card will not work.

    Be sure you go to an Orange store, not a reseller with a big Orange sign. Going to the Orange store will also allow you to present your ID and be entered in the system by an Orange employee. If you buy the device (with SIM) in a store (such as FNAC), you are required to mail in a copy of your identification and I don't believe you can recharge until this is done.

    I have the Orange "Domino" hotspot for my annual trips to France. I used to use an Orange USB device until I was forced to upgrade as bands changed. If you pay 40 Euros for the 5GB recharge, your device will remain in the system for one year after the end of the six-month period. I still have to find someone with a French Carte Bancaire to do the recharge each year, but it does mean that I have a working device, with the same SIM and "phone number" when I go there each summer.

    I admit that I wince at paying 40E for 5GB, but this is the best system I have found. I combine it with the sludge-like data TMo offers international travelers.

    Free does have attractive pricing, but I'm unaware of any way for a traveler to take advantage of them.

    I don't think it is possible to bring your own hotspot and insert an Orange SIM.

    There is a long-running page that seems to have pretty accurate and current information on French data providers:

    https://prepaid-data-sim-card.fandom.com/wiki/France

    SFR's Welcome SIM looks attractive. I also have a Reglo phone (as this allows me to pay less than $2 per month to keep the same French phone number year after year), but this requires going to a LeClerc store and setting up the account. I'm not sure if they'll do it for foreigners. They seem to have attractive data pricing and allow tethering, so I may try this this year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lineisbusy View Post
    The plan you cite in your original post is for a monthly subscription intended for French residents, which probably requires you to have a French bank account, French ID and French residence.

    It is incorrect to state that Orange only offers a maximum of 14 days, they offer data recharges that can last as long as six months.

    In my opinion, your best bet would be to go to an Orange store and purchase a "Domino" hotspot that will come with some GBs of data. You can then recharge by phone, but only by calling a number reachable only in France and only if you have a Carte Bancaire associated with a French bank account. A U.S. credit card will not work.

    Be sure you go to an Orange store, not a reseller with a big Orange sign. Going to the Orange store will also allow you to present your ID and be entered in the system by an Orange employee. If you buy the device (with SIM) in a store (such as FNAC), you are required to mail in a copy of your identification and I don't believe you can recharge until this is done.

    I have the Orange "Domino" hotspot for my annual trips to France. I used to use an Orange USB device until I was forced to upgrade as bands changed. If you pay 40 Euros for the 5GB recharge, your device will remain in the system for one year after the end of the six-month period. I still have to find someone with a French Carte Bancaire to do the recharge each year, but it does mean that I have a working device, with the same SIM and "phone number" when I go there each summer.

    I admit that I wince at paying 40E for 5GB, but this is the best system I have found. I combine it with the sludge-like data TMo offers international travelers.

    Free does have attractive pricing, but I'm unaware of any way for a traveler to take advantage of them.

    I don't think it is possible to bring your own hotspot and insert an Orange SIM.

    There is a long-running page that seems to have pretty accurate and current information on French data providers:

    https://prepaid-data-sim-card.fandom.com/wiki/France

    SFR's Welcome SIM looks attractive. I also have a Reglo phone (as this allows me to pay less than $2 per month to keep the same French phone number year after year), but this requires going to a LeClerc store and setting up the account. I'm not sure if they'll do it for foreigners. They seem to have attractive data pricing and allow tethering, so I may try this this year.
    Wow, that Orange hotspot looks too hard (and too expensive)

    the fandom site says this about Free:

    "The prepaid option is only available from their automated vending machines located both in their "Free Centre" stores and "Mag Press" shops (map). You won't have to worry about cancellation after you leave. This SIM card can be topped up online every month for one or two more months. If you decide to extend the validity, you will be charged on the credit or debit card that you have initially provided at the vending machine.

    You can continue to top-up the account each month, or decide to remove the expiration and switch to a rolling contract, which involves sending a written notice, if you wish to terminate the contract later (see below)."

    ...and that non-French credit cards are accepted. One can hope.
    If no joy I have an active Italian Lycamobile SIM that roams in France that can get me 4 gigs of data for 20 euro, or perhaps I can revive a ThreeUK SIM I also used not long ago. I don't really care about blazing speed there. Also Lycamobile France looks attractive, if I can find a shop that can sell and activate one. They had some horrible customer service reviews from people trying to activate them from the website.
    Last edited by rs899; 05-27-2019 at 05:26 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rs899 View Post
    Wow, that Orange hotspot looks too hard (and too expensive)

    If no joy I have an active Italian Lycamobile SIM that roams in France that can get me 4 gigs of data for 20 euro, or perhaps I can revive a ThreeUK SIM I also used not long ago. I don't really care about blazing speed there.
    I agree that Free and the vending machine looks like a good bet. However, the referenced link to Free's site (to locate machines), says you'll need a French "carte bancaire" to use the machine. (I did see someone claim that all credit cards work in the machine.) As you saw, the wiki-ish site suggests that all credit cards work once you've set up an account online, but this doesn't speak to the vending machine question.

    Aside from that, 100GB of data for 30 euros (10 for the SIM, 20 for the Forfait) looks pretty good. And it appears to allow you 25GB per month in the U.S. (20 euros a month for 25GB of data in the U.S. is a pretty sweet deal, though I wonder if they would allow you to use it exclusively outside of France for an extended period of time.) Even the 2 Euro per month plan gives you 50GB per month in France, which is pretty amazing.

    Orange's pricing used to be more attractive, I've just held onto it year after year just because I know it works.

    One thing I've never understood is how to use a data SIM in a third-party hotspot. Every data dongle or hotspot I've used seems to use software specific to the provider that issued it. I assume that if I get a Free SIM, it would work in a phone with hotspot capability, but not in my TMo or Orange hotspots. I have the same concern about using a ThreeUK SIM. Do you have any advice on using a SIM in a hot spot?

    My LeClerc phone has a plan that gives 100GB in a month for 25 Euros. The SIM is currently in a dumbphone (which works and doesn't use data). I'll probably try this plan for when I am there and put the SIM in a smartphone that can then (hopefully) tether as a hotspot.

    I'm a bit baffled by Lycamobile. They are a cheap provider in the U.S., where I have their PAYGO with no monthly plan. However, there is no Lyca PAYGO in France. And bizarrely, using a U.S. Lyca account phone in France is charged at ridiculously high rates for domestic calls. (Dollars per minute, as I recall.)

    Thanks for this exchange of info. I'm reasonably fluent in French, but it's a battle deciphering all the plans and pitfalls.

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    Looking further, the Free web site indicates that all payments must be made by "carte bancaire," contrary to the wiki-ish site.

    Elsewhere, I found contradictory posts about whether a foreign credit card can be used on the account. The majority, but not all, say a carte bancaire is needed. I also found a 2015 post where someone says the carte bancaire you use in the machine is permanently associated with the SIM and the account.

    Regarding my earlier comment about using the SIM for data in the U.S. under the 20Euro per month plan: Free's tariffs say higher usage outside of France than in France for a "prolonged period" may mean that you will be billed at 0.15Euro per MB used. I'm not surprised.

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    >how to use a data SIM in a third-party hotspot.

    IMO using dedicated hotspot is a losing battle, because providers have no incentive to allow their plans to be more "portable," only as much as users demand it, and most people don't use dedicated hotspots. An unlocked 3rd-party hotspot may or may not work, but you won't get any support if it doesn't.

    The better solution is of course to use the phone as the hotspot. This require planning, as you have to buy a phone that can be rooted, then have the wherewithal to go through the process and install your own hotspot software (that ignores the provider's "no hotspot" restriction). It takes some effort, which is a good thing, because if it were more widespread, providers would be more aggressive in shutting it down.

    >I'm a bit baffled by Lycamobile.

    I looked at Lycamobile France (https://www.lycamobile.fr/en) and its National XXL plan (50 GB, €15 50GB 1st month, €30 normal rate) looks good. You can also suspend your acct for €5/yr. This would be preferable over Free Mobile since it's on a superior network. But the caveat is finding a store that sells prepaid Lyca SIM, and the process of buying said SIM, which from my brief look can be problematic.

    BTW, this does beg the question of why a vacationer would need 50GB. The only thing that requires that amount is videos, and watching videos when you're on vacation is oxymoronic.

    IMO most people would do as you did, and get Orange. They are like VZW/ATT, ie a safe choice. When you're in a strange land, peace of mind is paramount. People don't need 50 or 100GB for their vacation.

    >there is no Lyca PAYGO in France.

    https://www.lycamobile.fr/en/rates/#/national

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    Quote Originally Posted by lineisbusy View Post
    Looking further, the Free web site indicates that all payments must be made by "carte bancaire," contrary to the wiki-ish site.

    Elsewhere, I found contradictory posts about whether a foreign credit card can be used on the account. The majority, but not all, say a carte bancaire is needed. I also found a 2015 post where someone says the carte bancaire you use in the machine is permanently associated with the SIM and the account.

    Regarding my earlier comment about using the SIM for data in the U.S. under the 20Euro per month plan: Free's tariffs say higher usage outside of France than in France for a "prolonged period" may mean that you will be billed at 0.15Euro per MB used. I'm not surprised.
    "carte bancaire" means "credit card" according to
    https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopi...de_France.html

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    https://www.lycamobile.fr/en/bundles/#/national

    The pass national M would suit me just fine. It is very similar to a Lyca Italy offering that I got 6 months ago, and even renewed once without drama. I was able to hotspot that off my Nexus 5x without rooting .

    There are a couple of Lyca France SIMs on ebay that I am tempted to buy and try to activate online (about $15). During activation there is a requirement to upload ID that I suspect may prove problematic. Hence, I ponder...

    I mainly need this to fill in gaps in Air bnb offerings. Some have wifi, some don't. Some that say they do, don't really. 10-15 gigs would be nice to have. Wife and I have the free Sprint for a year deal ( props to Comintel) that roams. It was quite good in Italy- almost could have done without the Lyca Italy data.

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    Quote Originally Posted by comintel View Post
    "carte bancaire" means "credit card" according to
    https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopi...de_France.html
    Those eight-year-old Trip Advisor posts are wrong. A "carte bancaire" is not the same as a credit card.

    A "carte bancaire" is more like a debit card, tied to a bank account in France. A U.S. credit card cannot be used where a "carte bancaire" is required.

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    Quote Originally Posted by e.mote View Post
    >

    >there is no Lyca PAYGO in France.

    https://www.lycamobile.fr/en/rates/#/national
    I stand corrected. I swear that every time I've checked the site over the years, there's been no way to get PAYGO. You had to get a monthly plan.

    While the English-language page you cite says "Standard Pay As You Go Rates," the French-language version of the same page says "Tarifs standards Forfaits mensuels" or "standard tariffs for monthly plans." That's confusing, though Lyca's U.S. site can be equally perplexing.

    It does appear you can put funds on a Lyca account without a monthly plan, but the French terms of service say money put in an account expires quickly. A 5-Euro recharge expires in in 30 days, a 10-Euro recharge expires in 45 days, topups of 20 to 50 Euros expire in 90 days. So, it's PAYGO, but it's not as appealing as Lycamobile's US PAYGO offering, which allows a balance to continue indefinitely, as long as the phone is used for a pay call or text every few months. The French Lyca site says you can go 120 days without using the line before losing it, so I suppose you could do a 5-Euro recharge every four months. That's nice you spotted the option to suspend the line for a year for 5 Euros.

    I also recall from past years that rechargng Lyca online required a "carte bancaire," but this also has changed. The terms of service now refer to "votre carte de crédit ou de débit." And one of the English FAQ pages says: "Top-up your mobile instantly online using a debit or credit card."

    The 15-Euro XXL package with 50 GB does look appealing. If that's what's available on the auction site, that might be worth a try.

    Thanks also for your observations on hot spots. I have a couple of phones with hot spot capabilities, one of them is unlocked. Since Reglo/LeClerc apparently supports tethering, this might work, we'll see.

    I'll try to investigate the Free and Lyca offerings this summer while in France and update this thread. I may seek advice from some of the reseller storefronts. I'm normally wary of them, but they may have some insights on how to work around some of these issues.

    As to your point about who would need 50GB while on vacation, I'm obliged to work extensively online during my vacations and I have a family that uses far more data than I do for endless scrolling, videos, etc. Realistically, I only use 5 to 10 GB during a 2- or 3-week visit, but it would be nice not to have to worry too much about data consumption.

    I mentioned the Reglo/LeClerc phone service I have. For the benefit of anyone reading this who would find it useful, they offer a minimal phone plan where you can keep a number active for 1.50Euro per month. To me, it's worth $20 per year to have the same number every year when I am in France. In addition, the phone works in the U.S. and can receive and make calls. The cost is more than a Euro per minute, so this is not practical, but the first minute is covered by the 1.50E monthly fee. Also, someone can leave a message on the number while I am in the U.S. I can retrieve it for a few pennies by calling from another (cheaper) phone. I don't know of any other French phone provider that offers anything this cheap. As described above, it would cost 60 to 80 Euros per year to keep a French Lyca number active all the time. Reglo allows me to use a U.S. credit card to top up online. You can change your plan and then go back to the cheap plan the next month, as long as you do it before the month starts. There are details on the wiki-ish web page mentioned earlier in this thread.

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    I was in France recently, mainly in Paris and a couple of days in the countryside in southwestern France. I am on the Sprint free year plan and while in France, my phone had free data roaming (slow 2G speed) on SFR, one of the French wireless carriers. A relative in France got me a pre-activated Bouygues SIM (another French carrier) and gave it to me when I landed at the airport and I used that to make local calls, send texts, and browse the web during my stay. When I ran out of the 1GB high speed data, I went into a little store that sell prepaid SIMs on a side street near the Champs-Elysee and add 2 GB more data for 20 euros (kinda expensive but I didn't want to change SIM and change my local number). Anyway, Bouygues works fine for me while I was in France.

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    I would proceed assuming that you can use a foreign credit card to get a Free.fr SIM, as if that wasn't the case, I think someone would have commented about it on the prepaid data wiki page by now, and the wiki would have been updated to reflect that.

    Also worth noting that Free.fr now offers a 50GB plan (w/ unlimited MIN/SMS) for €8.99/month.

    An alternative which looks to be imitating Free.fr's model and pricing but uses the Orange network is Syma. They offer 50GB in France (4GB in EU) for €10/month, 60 for €16, 100GB for €20. It says you can pay by credit card, though I don't know if they accept foreign credit cards.

    Whatever you go with, it would be great to hear back about your experience.

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