Bouygues, SFR to bid for Virgin Mobile; Arcep rules in Orange, Omea Telecom tariff dispute

6 May 2014

French cellcos Bouygues Telecom and SFR are reportedly planning to make offers for French mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Virgin Mobile, domestic newspaper Les Echos reports. The two operators, however, have declined to comment on the speculation. Virgin Mobile is owned by the Carphone Warehouse Group (46%), Richard Branson’s Virgin Group (46%) and the company’s management, via Financom (8%).

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in March 2014 it emerged that UK-based Carphone Warehouse was reportedly planning to sell its stake in Virgin Mobile France; the retailer’s decision allegedly prompted its partner, the Virgin Group to consider its own investment in the MVNO. It was reported that the owners initially offered their shares to SFR, upon whose network Virgin Mobile piggybacks, although negotiations between the two sides stalled over price. Virgin Group was also said to be considering staging an initial public offering (IPO) of the MVNO’s shares.

Meanwhile, French telecom regulator, the Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes (Arcep), has published its Decision No.2014-0192 on a case brought by MVNO Omea Telecom in October 2013 against domestic cellco Orange France. According to an Arcep press release, Omea Telecom, which owns the brands Casino Mobile, Tele2 Mobile and Virgin Mobile, claimed that the price Orange charges to host MVNOs on its network was unfair and disproportionate, and demanded that MVNOs pay for traffic only, with no fixed fee/monthly fee charged for the number of active SIM cards over the network. Arcep, however, ruled that it is not entitled to impose such demands on Orange France, and stated that the rates charged by Orange are not unreasonable, as they reflect the costs required for 4G deployments. However, in a concession to Omea, Orange will have to reduce the number of subscribers in each tranche used to calculate the fixed price it charges for hosting an MVNO.

France, Arcep, Bouygues Telecom, Omea Telecom (incl. Virgin Mobile), SFR