Quad-play is so vieux jeu; it's now all about 'quintuple play'

If you have been keeping an eye on news from Europe's mobile markets this week you will have noticed that Orange managed to nudge ahead of Vodafone in Spain in terms of subscriber numbers in July, while Movistar continued to shed subscribers. The battle to keep subscribers in this difficult market is in full swing, and operators are constantly tweaking tariffs and adapting pricing strategies to find the right formula.

So-called quad-play--variously labelled as fixed-mobile convergence, unified communications or multi-service bundles depending on to whom you speak--is where operators combine four services into one plan in a bid to increase customer loyalty and prevent churn. That tactic has worked well in Spain and France, for example. It has enabled operators to better target the premium end of the market where users are less susceptible to cutthroat pricing and interested in obtaining all their services--both for use at home and outside the home--from one source.

The Portuguese market has also made some interesting advances in terms of multi-service plays in the last three quarters: first, Portugal Telecom dumped its former mobile brand, TMN, in favour of the MEO brand and relaunched itself as an integrated provider of fixed and mobile services with a strong focus on LTE, fibre and TV services

Then, mobile operator Optimus merged with fixed-line provider Zon, decided to abandon both brand names, and re-emerged under NOS. Again, NOS has been positioned as a strong multi-service provider, and like MEO started life with a strong quad-play offering under NOS Quatro. MEO's quad-play bundle is called M40 (not to be confused with that well-known motorway in the UK between London and Birmingham).

Not content with mere quad-play offerings, MEO and NOS have now gone further still. Both have entered the realm of "quintuple play". You might argue they are stretching things a little thin here, as in order to get the "five" services they clearly separate mobile smartphone services, including data, from mobile broadband, although of course smartphone plans and MBB plans have tended to be treated separately in the past. These days, there is a growing tendency to offer buckets of data that can be shared among all devices, however.

The five services under NOS Cinco are 150 TV channels; 100-Mbps fixed broadband; 5 GB of "4G" services for mobile broadband; unlimited fixed voice calls and two SIM cards including 500 MB of data per card--all yours for a grand total of €79.99 ($101) per month under a promotion, after that rising to €99.99 ($126).

MEO's M50, meanwhile, includes 190 TV channels; 100-Mbps fixed broadband; fixed voice calls; 5 GB of mobile broadband traffic; and a SIM card with 500 MB of data for use with a smartphone. The monthly fee, again, is €79.99.

All this starts to make Vodafone Portugal look a little left out. The company does provide a bolt-on triple-play plan for its mobile Red plans, but is unable to boast the same level of convergence as its two rivals in terms of its service bundles. However, the company in July signed a fibre network-sharing deal with Portugal Telecom/MEO. Given Vodafone's strong conviction about the importance of convergence, it will likely make additional moves to exploit its improved access to household communications budgets.--Anne