It was earlier in the week that Iliad unveiled this new brand for businesses. We were able to take a closer look at the new Freebox Pro, the first Free Pro box, as well as the interface that allows you to manage all the integrated services.
The Free and Jaguar Network teams welcomed us to Iliad’s headquarters in Paris. It is also in the same demo spaces of the other Freeboxes that we had the opportunity to meet the managers of Free Pro and to be able to test the new Freebox Pro.
As a reminder, the Freebox Pro offer is at 39.99 euros HT per month for the first year, 49.99 euros HT / month thereafter.
A 100% optical fiber offer
The offer of Free Pro is 100% optical fiber. As we have been informed, whether it is the box or the OS, everything is dedicated and specific to this offer. Exit Freebox OS, the Freebox Pro has a specific OS. Regarding its hardware, Free cannot deny that the technical basis is the same as a Freebox Delta… as you can see in the image below where we can see the shape of the motherboard.
This Free offer also uses its own network based on that of Jaguar Network (a company acquired in 2019) and Free Pro. If you want to subscribe to this offer when you are already a Free subscriber, you will have to rebuild the line – because Free Pro uses a secondary network to that used by the general public. It also means that if you are Free eligible, you are not necessarily Free Pro eligible.
A Freebox Pro in three parts
The Freebox Pro is made up of three modules. There is the optical module, it is a small optical converter box, named ONU for Optical Network Unit. The latter is connected to the Freebox Pro which serves as a router. Finally, there is a 4G box for the emergency connection.
If you want to replace the Freebox Pro with another router, this is not possible. So there is no function bridge because Free believes that you would lose many functions provided by the box with such a configuration.
The Freebox Pro is connected to the optical module via a 10 Gb / s port. This enables speeds of 7 Gb / s (downstream) and 1 Gb / s (upstream) to be obtained. We were able to demonstrate these speeds, but note that they are not guaranteed speeds unlike other professional offers.
The emergency connection
The Freebox Pro is also connected to a 4G box via a 2.5 Gb / s port. It is a secondary backup connection which takes over in the event of a problem (this is called the Failover). You do not have to connect the supplied 4G box to it, you can very well connect another fiber / ADSL box or a 5G router instead.
The Freebox Pro will automatically recover internet access if your main optical fiber is cut, we were able to test the function: when you disconnect the optical fiber, the latency increases, but no data packets were lost during the transition . Free Pro assures me that this allows me not to be disconnected from a videoconference for example.
The advantage of not having integrated the 4G box into the Freebox Pro, unlike the Delta, is that you can place it wherever you want as long as it is connected by cable to the Freebox Pro. This can help you find an optimal location for 4G reception. Subsequently, Free Pro intends to offer a 5G box instead, but you can still use a 5G modem now.
The Freebox Pro is rackable
The Freebox Pro is rackable, that means you can install it in a 19 inch (1U or 44mm high) size bay. It will nevertheless be necessary to buy additional equipment at 59 euros HT. It has been designed to be installed in both directions depending on your configuration.
Free confirmed to me that it was possible, for 20 euros HT / month, to have a second Freebox Pro ready to use. Since the Freebox Pro configuration is saved in the cloud, it will take you a few minutes to replace your damaged Freebox Pro and make it functional. Obviously, this is a specific use case …
Let’s go back to the list of connections offered by the Freebox Pro: 1 SFP fiber optic input (10 Gb / s) as well as an SFP port for 10 Gb / s. This offers network support at 10 Gb / s (10 GbE), but also Direct Attach, allowing two SFP + elements to be directly linked. This solution is therefore more modular than the integration of an RJ45 connector. There are also 4 1 Gb / s Ethernet RJ45 ports, 1 2.5 Gb / s port for the modem, 1 FXS port (Freebox Pro landline) and 1 USB 3.0 port (type A, full format).
Onboard Wi-Fi is tri-band 4400ac Wi-Fi (1 × 2.4GHz, 2x5GHz) with MU-MIMO, like the Delta. Exit therefore Wi-Fi 6, however Free Pro confirmed to me that a box will be offered later with Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi offers a latest generation encryption protocol, WPA3, but we will come back to the software part later.
Finally, there are 2 SATA 2.5 ″ bays with a 2x SATA III (6 Gb / s) interface. This allows you to connect two hard drives or two SSDs of your choice. By default, there is a 1 TB hard drive. However, you can add another 1 for RAID 1 (automatic synchronization for backup) or replace SSDs for more performance in reading and writing data.
Free also told us about customer support for the professional offer. The operator thus undertakes to provide a response within 8 working hours with a guarantee of on-site intervention the same day or the next day. To facilitate assistance, Free evokes on-board artificial intelligence. It’s obviously more subtle than that.
The Freebox Pro is, in reality, full of sensors that allow, for example, to recover the internal temperature. This is data that is used by remote support to give you personalized and precise answers. To facilitate this work, they have integrated a Sigfox chip inside. The latter uses a low speed M2M network to communicate data to Free, even if your box is not connected to the network.
Note that there is also a Premium support invoiced 20 euros HT per month, with access by telephone to an expert on the same hours as the traditional support. Instead of 8 working hours, the response is then guaranteed in less than 2 working hours.
A very accessible software part
We spent time testing the functions promised by the Freebox Pro, because there are many of them: NAS, firewall, Wi-Fi, VPN…
This console allows you to manage several Freebox Pro, which can be practical if you obviously have several floors / buildings. Same observation for mobile lines, you have one by default, however the console offers full fleet management.
On-the-fly mobile line management
Free Pro provides by default 10 ready-to-use SIM cards that you can activate simply through the interface. For each number, you can check the outstandings outside the bundle and limit them if necessary. This limitation is done by line, it is immediate.
The interface obviously offers access to the Freebox Pro and its configuration. It is a simple and accessible interface, it is really the I think which seems to target small and medium-sized businesses in particular. For Wi-Fi, for example, you have a guest network, but you can also create on-the-fly access for a fixed period of time. Your guests will therefore use the guest network with a specific access key.
You can check the status of your box at any time, there are also all the classic switch management options, a firewall and VPN configuration. All these tools are important for a business, Free did not skimp on this for its launch. There are, however, some limitations in their use with advanced features that will come later.
To give you a specific example, let’s talk about the NAS function. The Freebox Pro integrates a NAS accessible via the local network or via the outside thanks to the VPN, so far nothing abnormal. This NAS can be managed from the console, you can create new folders. At the moment, you cannot share a specific folder to a group of people, the folders are shared across the entire local network to all connected people. This is a function that will be deployed later.
It was also the opportunity to discover the cloud backup option touted by Free Pro. The NAS can be backed up online, 200 GB are integrated in the basic offer, on the sovereign cloud servers of Jaguar Network. Each additional 100 GB is billed at 2 euros excluding tax. It’s very easy to access, you choose which folder of the NAS is synchronized.
Once this synchronization is done, the data is backed up in three different data centers. In addition, Free Pro manages version management, which means that several backups are available if you ever accidentally deleted a file on the NAS. Again, this is a useful function performed very simply to make it as accessible as possible.
What do we think of this Freebox Pro offer?
We were able to discuss this with a specialist, Gonzague Dambricourt, whose job is to install this type of equipment in companies via My lips are sealed. It is not an offer that interests him, because professionals generally work with their own equipment, to offer maintenance and obviously to guarantee performance. The fact that the Freebox Pro offer does not authorize the bridge, to replace the Freebox Pro with another router, is obviously a blocking factor for these service providers.
An offer well put together and well packagée
This Freebox Pro offer remains, despite everything, a well-crafted offer, according to Gonzague Dambricourt. It is very complete with a few options that other operators in the sector do not offer. It is one of the rare offers to combine mobile telephony with its offer, which is a significant advantage in meeting the needs of a business.
It is not necessarily on the price that the offer stands out, Orange has offers at 37 euros HT per month for professionals, but rather on the overall all-in-one service.
Finally, as many of you ask us, no the Freebox Pro offer is not accessible to individuals, because you need a SIRET.