French price war drives mobile usage to new heights

French consumers are using their mobile phones like never before, as cutthroat competition on the market has brought mobile rates down to unprecedented levels.

According to the latest figures published by French telecoms regulator Arcep for the first quarter of 2013, the volume of mobile calls reached 33.3 billion minutes in the first three months of the year. This is 5.4 billion minutes higher than a year ago and represents an average of 23 minutes more per user per month.

In other words, French mobile users talk on their handsets for an average of two hours and 51 minutes a month.

According to Arcep, this rise in usage is a result of the wider availability of unlimited offers from the country's mobile operators, which increasingly include unlimited voice calls and texts in their tariffs, Les Echos reported.

For example, Orange's new Origami plans, SFR's Carre and Red tariffs and Bouygues Telecom's new Sensation plans include unlimited voice and texts as well as data allowances of up to 6 gigabytes under the more expensive plans.

Enfant terrible Free Mobile, meanwhile--the cause of some of this sharp decline in prices--not only offers unlimited calls and texts as part of its €19.99 plan but also provides a €2 monthly plan for two hours of calls and unlimited texts. (And prices could fall further: Iliad owner Xavier Niel, the man behind Free Mobile, has said that mobile prices are still too expensive and will continue to fall, according to Les Echos.)

For operators, the impact of the lower prices is of course that ARPU has shrunk. According to Arcep, the average monthly bill is now €19.50 per month, which is €3.50 lower than a year ago. Total mobile services revenue in the first quarter reached €4 billion, which was 12.1 per cent lower compared to the first quarter of 2012.

Now, French operators are looking towards data services, LTE and quad-play services to help boost revenue figures.

For more:
- see this Les Echos article (translated by Google Translate)
- see this Arcep report

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