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The TCL Tariff Trend SnapShot No. 26 'French Mobile Trends' - provides an update on the changes in pricing & the impact on subscriber numbers, ARPU and revenues since the launch of the 4th French MNO Free Mobile in January 2012.
The SnapShot shows how Free Mobile has grown from a standing start to take 11 per cent of the French Mobile market by subscribers in less than 2 years with over 7.4 million users reported as of Q3-13. Free provides two simple low cost offers – a Euro 19.99 per month plan (including 3GB mobile data & unlimited calls & SMS) and a Euro 2 per month plan (including 50MB mobile data & 2 hours of calls a day & unlimited SMS).
Although all established French MNOs have lost market share the number of subscribers has increased by 9 per cent with all 3 MNOs increasing their customer base. The MNOs have retaliated to the launch of Free Mobile by introducing their own low cost sub-brands – such as Orange’s sosh sub-brand – and have both increased bundles and lowering their pricing.
Initially only Bouygues Telecom matched the Euro 19.99 per month tariff of Free Mobile but by 2013 all three MNOs had matched the Free price offer. Since 2012 the average package pricing from the 3 competing French MNOs had declined by 36 per cent but now has increased bundles of Mobile Data, SMS and call packages – with pricing declining from almost Euro 22 per month to Euro 14 per month.
As a result the French mobile market is now one of the most competitive in Europe. In December 2013 Free Mobile launched a 4G service with a 20GB Mobile Data allowance included with the two monthly plans at no extra cost and prompted Bouygues, SFR and sosh to follow the same price strategy.
The other MNOs have also sought to launch premium price plans based on convergence and mobile subsidy but still have had to reduce pricing to remain competitive. The result has been to reduce average blended ARPU levels by up to Euro 6.5 per month, an average decline of 17.4 per cent since the launch of Free Mobile.
And French regulator ARCEP has reported a decline in French mobile revenues by 13 per cent over the year to the end of June 2013. Orange Group has seen its stock price fall by 24 per cent since the launch of Free Mobile. By contrast Free Mobile’s parent company Iliad Group’s stock price has risen by 64 per cent over the same period.
From the experience of the disruptive Free Mobile price strategy, French MNOs faced the challenge of competing against the Free Mobile discounted offer with no frills sub-brand and offer higher value converged services. When faced with a disruptive new entrant MNOs have to upsell additional services in order to compensate for the loss in revenues.
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