France Telecom becomes 'Orange,' as Free Mobile launches fresh assault

France Telecom said it will adopt Orange as its company name starting July 1, in a move that will finally align the group's corporate and services branding.

The French operator has been gradually introducing the Orange brand throughout its global operations since 2006, replacing former brands such as Wanadoo and Equant. However, it has so far been reluctant to completely abandon its corporate brand in France, until now.

"Changing the name of the company and its shares is a natural step in the process towards the simplification and unity of the group's activities," the operator said in a statement. "As of July 1 2013, the name of the company will be Orange and the name of the shares will be Orange (ticker symbol ORA)."

Meanwhile, in France, the brand change comes as Free Mobile, the Iliad-owned upstart operator that sparked a bitter price war on the mobile market in January 2012, launched its third assault with the offer of two tariffs at the reduced rate of €15.99 to existing "Freebox" subscribers. Existing fixed broadband subscribers of Free will now be able to subscribe to up to two mobile plans including voice calls, texts and data at the reduced price; the mobile plans cost €19.99 a month for non-Freebox users. Freebox users had previously only been able to subscribe to one mobile plan at the reduced price per household.

This "multiligne" (multi-line) approach reflects a recent trend on the French market. It is already a key strategy of the three incumbent operators Orange France, Bouygues Telecom and Vivendi's SFR to attract more mobile users within a single household.

Free Mobile's adoption of the strategy represents the operator's third major assault on the market: it first launched a €19.99 text, calls and data plan in January 2012, forcing the other three operators to bring out similar price plans and cut tariffs to what SFR has already described as nearing the "danger level." Then in December Free unveiled a €2 voice-only mobile tariff, which is also free for existing Freebox users.

According to analysts quoted by Les Echos, this latest salvo by Free is an effort to move subscribers from the €2 plans to the higher-value €15.99 tariffs. The French daily noted that the majority of new Free Mobile clients in the first quarter (it cites a probable 70 per cent of the 870,000 net new users) opted for the €2 offer.

However, the multi-line approach "is not yet the solution Free needs to attract high-value subscribers. That probably requires a subsidy for smartphones," Les Echos quoted an unnamed analyst as saying.

Free Mobile is currently the only network operator in France that does not offer handset subsidies.

For more:
- see this Orange release
- see this Les Echos article (translated by Google Translate)
- see this Total Telecom article
- see this IDG News Service article

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