France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange) chief executive Stephane Richard has revealed that he sees the launch of 4G mobile services as crucial to bringing in higher average revenues per user (ARPU). The French telco is spending EUR1 billion (USD1.3 billion) on the deployment of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless networks over the next six to seven years, and plans to launch the technology commercially early next year. Richard told Bloomberg: ‘There will be a premium. The model with HSPA+ has made it clear that customers will pay,’ referring to the fact that subscribers are willing to pay extra for the improved bandwidth offered by advanced 3.5G and 4G technologies such as HSPA+ and LTE. FT-Orange is expecting to have deployed LTE networks in four cities by the end of this year where it will be conducting pilots, with the full commercial introduction coming in early 2013. Rival operator SFR recently revealed that it was planning to launch LTE at the end of November.
Separately, Richard says that FT-Orange has no plans to offer 4G roaming to newly-launched competitor Free Mobile. Free Mobile’s low-cost services have shaken up the French cellular market since its launch in January this year, with the newcomer taking more than 5% of the market in its first six months of operation, and Richard sees 4G as a means of differentiating FT-Orange’s service from the likes of Free Mobile.