Bouygues tendered a third bid to acquire rival French mobile operator SFR on Friday--the day the board of SFR parent Vivendi board is expected to vote on a competing offer from Altice after three weeks of exclusive negotiations with the company.
There has been an acceleration in moves by operators to address the thorny problem of voice and data roaming charges throughout the European Union, although there currently seems little likelihood that such efforts will stop the European Commission's Neelie Kroes from implementing her plans to abolish roaming charges completely.
Vivendi-owned SFR and Bouygues Telecom have agreed to share their respective mobile networks in order to improve indoor and outdoor coverage and reduce costs by between €100 million and €200 million a year.
According to initial figures from France's mobile operators, the new year brought further evidence that SMS usage in the country is being increasingly cannibalised by alternative services such as MMS or picture messages and over-the-top messaging apps.
SFR has become the last of France's three incumbent operators to announce low-cost LTE tariffs, after Free Mobile's latest onslaught on the French mobile market prompted both Bouygues Telecom and Orange France to add LTE to their own low-cost brands earlier in December.
I got an early Christmas present this week when Orange announced that Sosh, its low-cost mobile brand, will start offering LTE to its customers as of Jan. 9. This is good news for consumers such as myself who have opted for one of the secondary brands in France but found themselves left out in the cold when it came to LTE.
Free Mobile's new onslaught on the French LTE market has now prompted both Bouygues Telecom and Orange France to add LTE to their own low-cost brands. Meanwhile, the Iliad-owned operator is extending its attack to a former preserve of the incumbent operators by offering a leasing programme for high-end smartphones.
LTE operators beware: consumer groups are watching your moves very closely, and are prepared to pounce if they believe your claims on speed and coverage do not match reality. At least that is the case in France, where consumer watchdog UFC Que Choisir has filed a legal complaint against Orange France and Vivendi-owned SFR over the claims they have been making about their respective LTE services.
LTE Broadcast is probably still some way ahead in Europe as operators continue to focus on their macro LTE services launches, but the interest in the technology's potential is clearly there. While operators such as EE see cost savings through the optimisation of spectrum and backhaul as an early opportunity for the technology, other use cases are expected to emerge over time, with events currently expected to be the initial launch pad for service offerings.
Xavier Niel, the billionaire founder of Iliad and the man who almost singlehandedly sparked a price war on France's mobile market by introducing low-cost tariffs under start-up mobile operator Free Mobile, is currently assessing deals for operators across Europe, Bloomberg reported.