Orange dumped as SFR scoops French MVNO deal

Virgin Mobile France is ready to become a "full-service" MVNO following a deal struck between its parent company, Omea Telecom, and SFR. The new agreement, valued at €1 billion over the next five years, will see the three MVNOs owned by Omea switch from being hosted by France Telecom (FT) Orange over to rival SFR.

Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, the president of Omea said that 18 months of negotiation with FT Orange failed to make progress, whereas SFR was willing to accept the plans Omea has for moving its three MVNO operators to having greater control of its subscribers, tariffs and mobile services.

The deal with SFR, which will see Omea become the first full-service MVNO in France, calls for the 1.3 million Virgin Mobile customers, and the 600,000 shared between Breizh Mobile and Casino, to be operational on the SFR network by early 2012. Omea also plans to co-operate with SFR to launch fixed broadband and quad-play services by next year.

Of note, according to a report in the French newspaper Les Echos, Roux de Bezieux said that Omea would be installing into the SFR network equipment valued at many tens of millions of euros to gain improved technical independence. The new Ericsson equipment will also be managed and maintained by the Swedish infrastructure supplier.

What might also calm other mobile operators in France is Omea's lack of interest in bidding for LTE spectrum. Roux de Bezieux said that the forthcoming auction was not designed for a fifth entrant. "It's risky," he said. "You have to bid for the 2.6GHz frequency, which is only effective in urban areas, without knowing whether you are eligible for the 800MHz band. As for the 800MHz spectrum, reserve prices are very high, and there are only four blocks provided."

For more:
- see this Les Echos article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this Telecompaper article (sub. req.)

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