Free Mobile launch hitting MVNOs hardest, paper says

23 Jan 2012

According to a report in the French newspaper Les Echos, the arrival of new competition in the shape of fourth mobile operator Free Mobile is hitting the nation’s MVNOs hardest, with many rushing to sign up to its low-cost offers. The French monitoring site Toosurtoo is reportedly claiming that 26% of the newcomer’s sign-ups have migrated from MVNOs, with Virgin Mobile France being the single biggest loser. The paper quotes one French analyst as saying the impact of Free Mobile could even threaten the ‘viability of the MVNO market’ and some ‘network operators will find it difficult to renegotiate contracts’.

The monitoring site’s data reportedly shows that Free Mobile picked up close to 9% of its customers at the expense of Virgin Mobile, while La Poste Mobile lost around 5% and LeClerc Mobile lost nearly 3% to the fledgling operator. Further, Toosurtoo says that the big three network operators too have not escaped the Free Mobile effect. More than 30% have apparently migrated from Orange France, 22% from SFR and 16% from Bouygues Telecom, and whilst Free Mobile is remaining tight-lipped on its current subscriber tally, Toosurtoo estimates that well over one million people have already signed up to use its service.

It is not all good news however, and one critic points out that by effectively churning the existing French mobile subscriber base with the launch of its low-cost offers, Free Mobile’s arrival will merely force the incumbents to cut their own tariff plan prices – ultimately threatening long term network investment and jeopardising thousands of jobs in the industry.

France, Free Mobile (Iliad), Omea Telecom (incl. Virgin Mobile)