The CEO of French mobile service provider Bouygues Telecom is claiming that France’s newest cellular network operator, Free Mobile, has attracted at least 2.2 million subscribers since its launch in mid-January. According to a report from Fierce Wireless, Olivier Roussat told the French newspaper La Tribune that Free Mobile had been a ‘great commercial success’, but added that requests from Bouygues customers to port their numbers to the new operator had returned to normal levels after a flurry of activity in January. Although neither Free Mobile nor its owner, the Iliad group, have released actual subscriber statistics, Roussat estimated that Free has signed up in excess of 2.2 million users in just over two months. The estimate was based on the number of Free Mobile SIM cards detected at least once on the Bouygues Telecom network.
All is not completely rosy for Free Mobile, however. Recent reports of network over-crowding and congestion have prompted a rise in the number of customers asking to leave the newly launched network and return to one of the more established operations. Just last week Bouygues Telecom said that it received 4,000 incoming number portability requests from Free Mobile customers. Bouygues also claims that its low-cost brand B&You is adding 100,000 net customers a month, with 49% of these new additions coming from Free Mobile.
Separately, the French telecoms regulator Arcep is predicting that the country’s three largest telecoms operators – France Telecom-Orange, SFR and Bouygues – may shed up to 10,000 jobs over the next few years as competition increases. ‘If carriers’ sales and margins continue to decrease, they will have to cut spending,’ Arcep President Jean-Ludovic Silicani told Bloomberg News.