Vivendi Universal’s majority-owned French mobile operator Société Française de Radiotéléphone (SFR) has reported signing up over a million 3G users and aims to increase this to 2.5 million by the end of this year. In a press statement yesterday, the cellco said it had registered 1.06 million UMTS subscribers as of 9 January. SFR competes with France Telecom’s mobile arm Orange and Bouygues Telecom, which is yet to launch 3G.
SFR launched 3G handsets in November 2004 and by the end of that year covered 64 major towns and cities, or 38% of the population. It offers dual-mode GPRS/W-CDMA phones so that user can switch to GPRS outside 3G coverage zones; it expects 70% coverage by the end of 2006. SFR’s strategy is to stimulate the French 3G market by offering low-priced handsets, and access to 3G services as part of a basic fixed-rate service. In June 2005 it made 3G services available to pre-paid subscribers; three months later it revealed it had 300,000 UMTS customers. The company estimates that 10% of its UMTS users are corporate subscribers. SFR has no plans to fill in gaps in 3G coverage with 2.5G data services, preferring to look ahead to 3.5G and alternatives technologies – it has announced plans to launch a commercial HSDPA platform in the second half of 2006.