Free, Bouygues turn up the heat in French LTE price war

Only a week after Free Mobile announced it had added LTE to its €19.99  ($27.60) mobile plan for no extra charge, the Iliad-owned operator is now including the high-speed service in its €2-a-month plan, while Bouygues Telecom said it is extending LTE to its entire portfolio at no extra charge.

Last week, Free Mobile said its €19.99 and €15.99 mobile plans would include up to 20 GB of LTE data at no extra charge for users. Now, its €2 plans come with 50 MB of LTE data. That price compared with €30.99 for Orange's 2 GB SIM-only "Origami" plan with LTE, €30.99 for SFR's SIM-only 3 GB "Carré 4G" plan and €29.99 for Bouygues Telecom's SIM-only 3 GB "Forfait Sensation 4G" plan.

As a result of Free's move, Bouygues Telecom said it would include LTE services in its low-cost B&YOU tariffs before Christmas, and has now said LTE will be included in all of its commercial plans at no extra charge.

Orange has said it still plans to press ahead with its LTE price increases from February when it revamps its tariffs, Reuters reported previously.

Despite its aggressive pricing, Free remains under pressure over its network coverage.

In comments made to FierceWireless:Europe last week, Orange noted that Free is offering a service based on 700 LTE cell sites in 1,000 communes. "That is less than one mast per town," an Orange spokesperson said. "In addition, in their own communication, Free have taken every precaution to point out (in small print) the limits of their own network by clarifying in particular that the quality of service not only depends on mast coverage and the number of users per cell, but also on the quality of backhaul equipment that links each 4G mast to the main backbone network."

The French government has also been highly critical of Free Mobile's move with LTE and warned that Iliad's claims to offer LTE speeds despite the lack of coverage risked confusing consumers and damaging the image of the new technology. Ministers have advised consumers to check coverage maps very carefully before making their LTE choices.

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

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