French mobile price declines slowed in 2014

Mobile service prices in France remained relatively stable in 2014 compared to sharp decreases in the previous year, helping the market's fixed and mobile players to slow the rate of decline in overall communications service revenue during the 12-month period.

According to latest figures from French telecoms regulator Arcep, revenue generated by operators in the electronic communications market totalled €36.8 billion ($40 billion) in 2014, which marks a 3.4 per cent decrease over the previous year compared to a drop of 7.3 per cent year-on-year in 2013. The regulator noted the slowdown was due in part to the smaller decrease in prices, and also to an increase in the number of user devices and consumption levels.

Expenditure decreased slightly compared to the three previous years (-3.5 per cent in 2014) but remained above the 10-year average of €6.5 billion, excluding licence fees.

Although the annual mobile price index still fell by an average 10 per cent last year, this compares to a 26.3 per cent drop in 2013. The market witnessed sharper price decreases in 2012 and 2013 following the introduction of low-cost tariffs from Free Mobile, which sparked a price war among the main players.

Arcep noted that prices for post-paid contracts (flat-rate plans), which account for 85 per cent of the market in terms of volume, decreased less dramatically in 2014, falling by 13.5 per cent instead of the 25.6 per cent decline registered in 2013.

"This change can be attributed to the price hike that occurred in late 2013, and masks a strong inertia in 2014," Arcep said.

Prepaid prices actually increased for the first time since 2011, rising 7.5 per cent on average in 2014. As with flat-rate plans, prices in the prepaid card market were very stable in 2014, Arcep noted.

The regulator added that mobile data consumption increased significantly in 2014, with mobile data traffic doubling to 305,000 terabytes compared to 2013. It further noted that the prevalence of unlimited voice plans on the market means that mobile consumption will rival, and to some extent replace, calls originating on landline phones.

Indeed, voice traffic on mobile networks continued to increase in 2014, rising by 147 billion minutes or 7 per cent over the previous year. On the flipside, calling traffic on fixed lines (9.6 billion minutes) reached its lowest point since 1998. More than 200 billion messages were also sent during the year, or 5 billion more than the year before.

France still has four mobile network operators after SFR was acquired by Altice to form Numericable-SFR. Orange, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad-owned Free Mobile also compete on the fixed and mobile markets.

For more:
- see this Arcep release

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