Bouygues Telecom plans wide LTE launch in October

Bouygues Telecom said it will launch LTE services across France on Oct. 1, claiming it will be able to provide the high-speed mobile services in 100 cities by that date.

Bouygues will be able to offer the LTE-capable iPhone 5.

In a challenge to rival operators France Telcom Orange and SFR, which already offer LTE services but have limited coverage so far, Bouygues Telecom said it wants to offer LTE services to more than 25 million customers by October. France Telecom is aiming to cover 30 per cent of the population, roughly 19.6 million people, by the end of the year.

"We will be the only ones with such large coverage at that date," added Richard Viel, deputy CEO of Bouygues Telecom, during a press conference in Strasbourg to launch the service, according to Reuters.

In anticipation of its nationwide launch, Bouygues Telecom said it has already opened its LTE network in more than 10 towns and cities: Strasbourg, Lyon, Toulouse, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Vanves, Malakoff, Lille, Douai, Lens, Bayonne, Anglet and Biarritz.

Bouygues will start selling LTE services at €29.99 euros a month for 2 B of data without a discounted phone and at €39.99 euros with a discounted phone. According to Reuters, the operator will charge a premium of around €5 to €10 for the new plans, but conceded that it will have to react to operator moves further down the line.

Bouygues Telecom is able to launch its coverage at a relatively fast pace because it has been given permission to refarm its 1800 MHz spectrum for use with LTE services. As a result, it will also be the only French operator that will be able to support the LTE-compatible iPhone 5; both SFR and Orange France are using 800 MHz spectrum for their LTE rollouts, and this band is currently not supported in Europe by Apple.

A similar move happened last year in the UK, where telecoms regulator Ofcom gave EE the right to refarm its 1800 MHz spectrum for LTE, which it launched last October. Unlike in France, however, EE is still the only UK operator to offer LTE services, although rivals are now snapping at its heels with launches planned later this year.

Orange, Bouygues and SFR are all banking on LTE to help revive their fortunes after an aggressive price war sparked by Iliad's Free Mobile in January 2012 led to a torrid year for the three incumbent operators.

Jean-Paul Arzel, head of networks at Bouygues, said it would take until early next year to see the real impact of LTE on the market, Reuters reported. "The fight for customers will be intense, starting this fall and through Christmas, and we should see whether the effort to raise prices is working by early next year," he said.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this release (translated via Google Translate)

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