French operator SFR is close to commercial launch of software that will automatically connect users to WiFi hotspots or to the 3G network, depending on availability. The WiFi Auto Connect driver is in a pilot phase in three Departments, prior to a planned nation-wide rollout later this year.
SFR has access to nearly 4 million hotspots in France, through its residential neufbox product, and public access points. Its Auto Connect service is intended to enable users to automatically connect to SFR’s WiFi network and to switch between 3G or WiFi networks. SCR said this would offer a “unique mobile broadband user experience, completely fluid between its WiFi Hotspots and 3G”.
In addition to its WiFi strategy, SFR has started marketing a “free” femtocell product to all its subscribers. Users pay €49 for the femtocell, which can be redeemed when the unit is activated. The unit, called “SFR Femto” is being marketed as a mobiel coverage solution. It can be plugged in as an “add on” to “most” existing DSL routers, and as a USB “click-on” to SFR’s own Neufbox Evolution product.
As well as these femto and WiFi investments, the operator also continues to expand its macro network. It said it would have its first three cities covered with 42Mbps HSPA before the end of 2011. At the moment, it has the 12 largest French cities covered with 21Mbps HSPA. The operator also said it is “densifying” 3G coverage in key areas, such as tourist resorts and along TGV routes.
The company, which has just won 2.6GHz spectrum for the provision of LTE services, also this week held an LTE demo in Marseilles in collaboration with Nokia Siemens Networks. The company said it invests €1.5 billion annually in its overall network infrastructure, which includes a degree of fibre backhaul connectivity.