MADRID, May 10 (Reuters) - France Telecom’s Orange will launch superfast mobile Internet in Spain on July 8 in six cities, making it the first to make 4G services widely available in the country and beating rival Yoigo by a matter of days.
Faster mobile Internet, or 4G, may give Orange and TeliaSonera’s Yoigo an edge in Spain’s cut-throat mobile phone market, where the two biggest players, Telefonica and Vodafone have lost share to cheaper rivals over the past year.
Orange and Yoigo have increased their market share in the country, which has the highest smartphone penetration in the European Union, ahead of Britain. The attractions of faster mobile Internet may help them win new customers.
4G services, already available in several other European countries, make it easier and quicker to watch television and make video calls on mobile handsets.
But in Britain, the first network to launch 4G, EE, owned by France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, failed to stem a drop in service revenue despite attracting 318,000 customers to the service in five months.
Yoigo, the fourth-biggest operator, said earlier this week it would be the first to offer 4G in Spain, with a July 18 launch date and no additional cost for subscribers with 3G services.
Orange had previously said it would introduce 4G in the third quarter, without specifying a date. The company declined to say if the service would be offered at the same cost as 3G.
Orange’s 4G services will be available to 12 million Spaniards in 15 cities by the end of 2013 and all provincial capitals will be covered by end-2014, the company said on Friday.
Orange’s investment in the rollout of 4G services, including previous work to upgrade its network and the purchase of spectrum, would total 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion), it said.
It is not known when Telefonica and Vodafone will launch 4G in Spain. Vodafone has carried out a pilot for 4G and Telefonica, which plans to make superfast mobile Internet available in Brazil and Britain this year, said it was ready to quickly roll out the service in Spain according to market needs and company strategy.