Vivendi-backed Société Française de Radiotéléphone (SFR) says it is interested in acquiring French mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Debitel, confirming a recent report in Les Echos. In a press statement, a spokesman for SFR said: ‘We are a candidate but the matter is still developing.’ Debitel is German-owned and launched in France in February 2005 using SFR’s network. However, it has fallen well short of its target of signing up half a million subscribers by the end of 2006 and at the last count numbered just 160,000.
The development comes hard on the heels of a similar report that France Télécom’s mobile division Orange and Telecom Italia’s Alice unit are in ‘advanced talks’ with another MVNO, Ten, over a possible takeover or strategic alliance. Ten has reportedly investigated a number of possible partnership agreements or buyout offers in recent weeks and is believed to have settled on an approach from Orange and Alice.
There are currently around 15 MVNOs in France, accounting for around 3.5% of the total market as at the end of March.