Arcep figures showed that the decline in mobile services revenue that started on the French market in mid-2011 continued throughout 2015, but that the rate of decrease remained on a downward trend.
According to the regulator's latest report on France's communications services market, mobile services revenue fell by 2.2 per cent in the final quarter of the year to reach €3.5 billion ($3.9 billion).
The regulator noted that the decrease in income (excluding income from machine-to-machine) was €77 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, which compares favourably with the €144 million drop in the fourth quarter of 2014. In 2013, the market witnessed revenue declines of over €500 million in the second quarter and just below €500 million in the other three quarters.
Arcep also noted that post-paid plans accounted for 93 per cent of revenue from mobile services.
The results indicate the that market is continuing to stabilise following the price war that followed the arrival of Free Mobile as the fourth mobile operator in 2012. Efforts to return the market to three operators recently failed after merger talks between Orange and Bouygues Telecom collapsed.
Interestingly, the regulator noted that a quarter of SIM cards in service excluding M2M were attached to fixed-mobile convergence offers. France was an early adopter of such plans, which today include Orange Open and SFR Multipacks. Arcep said the number of mobile SIM cards coupled with a fixed service stood at 17.4 million as of the end of December last year. This represents a 21 per cent increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2014.
In terms of 3G and 4G usage, the number of 4G users doubled in one year to reach 22 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, or 31 per cent of SIM cards compared to 15 per cent a year earlier. 3G usage is still dominant with 48.5 million users, but annual growth was much slower at 13.1 per cent.
Only this week, mobile operators started to open up 4G mobile sites in their recently acquired 700 MHz spectrum band.
ANFR, the agency responsible for managing and monitoring mobile frequencies in France, said it awarded authorisations on Apr. 1 to Bouygues Telecom for three sites in Paris and to Free Mobile for three sites in Tarbes. Bouygues Telecom has confirmed the deployment of its first 4G site in the 700 MHz band in Paris.
- see the Arcep market report for the fourth quarter of 2014 (in French)
Bouygues, Free first to win permits for 4G sites in France's 700 MHz band
France raises almost €3M more from 700 MHz auction
France raises €2.8B from 700 MHz spectrum auction
France to kick off 700 MHz auction on Nov. 16
Arcep gives Orange go-ahead to test mm-wave frequencies for 5G