Bouygues Telecom, Orange hit back in 4G battle
PARIS Dec 16 (Reuters) - Bouygues Telecom said it would offer superfast mobile broadband service at no extra charge in some of its low-cost packages in the latest salvo in the French mobile price war.
Orange Chief Executive Stephane Richard told Le Figaro newspaper that France's biggest telecom operator would also respond with a 4G offer for its Sosh brand customers from January, without giving details.
No. 3 French mobile operator Bouygues Telecom, which last week said it would include 4G in its regular service packages, added on Monday that it would extend 4G to its 19.99 euro-a-month ($27.49) and 24.99 euro-a-month packages under its B&YOU brand.
The move directly takes on low-cost mobile operator Iliad , which shook up the French market once again this month when it added 4G to its 19.99 euro-a-month Free Mobile package.
Iliad's decision to launch 4G heaped more pressure on leading French telecoms operators Orange, Vivendi's SFR and Bouygues Telecom, which had hoped their newly built fourth-generation networks would command higher prices and help restore profits hit by Iliad's emergence.
Since Free Mobile joined the market less than two years ago, mobile prices in France have fallen by 11 percent in 2012 and a further 8 to 10 percent this year. Free Mobile took a 10 percent market share in the process.
Orange's Richard said in an interview with Le Figaro that Free Mobile had only very few frequencies and antennas compared with its competitors and that it would need a deal with one of them to have sufficient 4G coverage in the coming weeks.
He also fired a warning shot at Iliad CEO Xavier Niel, saying Free Mobile needed its 2G/3G roaming accord with Orange more than Orange did, adding that it was "not a permanent right".
"Orange can very well do without the roaming agreement, but is the opposite certain?" Richard was quoted as saying on Le Figaro's website.
Iliad was not immediately reachable for comment.
Iliad also said last week that its 2-euro monthly Free Mobile package would feature 4G at no extra cost for users downloading up to 50 megabytes of data. Beyond that the service would cost 5 euro cents per megabyte.