Orange's Mobistar plots return of 'quad-play' offerings

Orange's Belgian unit Mobistar has set cable operators a six-month deadline to open up their networks in a move the operator hopes will enable it to offer bundles of fixed and mobile services once again.

The company, which stopped marketing fixed voice and broadband services in May, and TV services in September, said it has paid €1.2 million ($1.6 million) to the market's cable operators for the introduction of wholesale cable services within a period of six months.

"The payments of €600,000 to Telenet…and €600,000 to Brutélé-Tecteo…are Mobistar's initial contribution to the costs associated with the opening up of the cable networks," the company said in a statement.

Mobistar added that it is therefore fulfilling its promise to proceed with the effective introduction of cable regulation and is taking the necessary steps to offer TV and fixed broadband services to Belgian consumers in the future.

Mobistar, which competes with Belgacom and KPN's BASE on the Belgian market and is majority owned by France's Orange, said it was forced to stop marketing fixed services last year because of a lack of competition on the Belgian residential fixed market that made it impossible to sell fixed services to residential customers at a profit.

In December, Mobistar's CEO Jean-Marc Harion said the "unbalanced regulatory framework" between fixed and mobile had caused a massive fall in mobile prices in Belgium while fixed price continued to rise. "The wholesale cable regulation shall correct this asymmetry to the benefit of the consumer," Harion said.

The operator considers fixed services to be an important part of its overall strategy. Indeed, rival Belgacom has particularly benefited from its convergence strategy, and said in July that the combination of mobile plans with fixed products enabled it to build its mobile base further and offset lower revenue from mobile services. KPN's BASE resells Belgacom fixed services under its SNOW secondary brand.

Furthermore, Telenet, which operates an MVNO on Mobistar's network, also offers triple-play voice, TV and broadband services alongside its mobile plans and achieved solid growth in its mobile business last year.

Mobistar said it is counting on the cable operators to collaborate "in order to inject a new dynamic into the market, just as the mobile operators earlier enabled the introduction of wholesale offers".

The company added that should the cable operators not fulfil their obligations, it "trusts that the various competent regulators will actively ensure that the process of opening up the cable networks can be carried out successfully, in the interest of both the competition and consumers."

Mobistar also now offers LTE services to residential customers after becoming the last of the three mobile operators to launch the high-speed mobile data services. Mobistar recently acquired an 800 MHz spectrum licence to operate an LTE network through Belgium. The Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) sold three lots of 800 MHz spectrum for €360 million to Belgacom, BASE and Mobistar, with each operator paying €120 million.

For more:
- see this Mobistar release
- see this Reuters article

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