Bouygues Telecom revs up for October LTE launch

Bouygues Telecom is on the verge of becoming the third French operator to launch LTE services and said it will already cover 63 per cent of the population or 40 million citizens by the launch date of Oct.1.

Unlike the slow rollout approach being taken by rivals SFR and Orange France, both of which are continuing to expand services across France using 800 MHz spectrum, Bouygues Telecom is making use of its refarmed 1800 MHz spectrum to launch services to a broader section of the population from the get go. As things stand, Orange France and SFR said they plan to cover 40 per cent of the population with LTE by the end of this year. Both are also using 3G dual carrier technology to complement their LTE rollouts.

Meanwhile, MVNO Virgin Mobile France has also said it will launch LTE services in 2014, and will use the Bouygues Telecom network.

Like its rivals, LTE is a crucial part of Bouygues Telecom's recovery efforts following the price war unleashed on the French market by Iliad's Free Mobile at the start of 2012. Free Mobile, while still a competitive force on the market, has lost its earlier advantage after all three incumbent operators introduced their own low-cost price plans and stepped up multi-service offerings with bundles of fixed and mobile services to increase customer loyalty. It's also not clear when the fourth operator will launch its own LTE services.

However, Bouygues will lose one of its other advantages over Orange and SFR: the launch of the new Apple 5c and 5s iPhones means that all three operators will now be able to offer an LTE-enabled iPhone because the new devices support more LTE bands. Previously, only Bouygues Telecom was able to carry the iPhone 5 because the device only supported 1800 MHz spectrum in Europe.

The Apple situation has also taken another twist in recent days after it was reported that a French  administrative body called the DGCCRF, which is tasked with consumer protection and assuring competition, is investigating the conditions that Apple imposes on mobile operators for the sale of its smartphones.

Nevertheless, Bouygues Telecom is building up momentum ahead of its October launch and said customers who sign up from Oct.1 to Nov. 17 will get one month of free LTE service. The offer is open to customers from rival operators. Bouygues will have a range of LTE tariffs, one of which will come with 16 GB of data starting at €59.99 per month.

"With the launch, we are offering the opportunity to 40 million French people to discover 4G for free and with no obligation," Bouygues Telecom CEO Olivier Roussat said in a statement.

For more:
- see this Bouygues Telecom release
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article

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