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Free’s French Challenge: All Is Not Lost For Rivals

by User Not Found | Oct 11, 2012

A short trip to Paris last week to meet France's leading multiplay service providers confirmed the degree to which Free has shaken things up since it launched low price mobile services at the beginning of 2012. The company's own data shows it had acquired a 5% mobile share by June 2012, with each major competitor suffering declining shares. The question on everyone's lips was simple: What can we do about Free?

Our latest ConsumerMetrix Bulletin confirms the impact of Free's mobile market entry: we identified 5% of French households which take the "quad play" from Free: home telephone, broadband, TV and mobile. In addition we found another 12% of households which take a triple play (the same services excluding mobile) from Free. As Free expands its mobile network coverage it is reasonable to expect a significant chunk of that 12% to add Free's mobile service.

Our research shows that Free's multiplay customers are relatively tech-savvy compared to their rivals: they own more smartphones, tablets and Apple devices, and are more likely to use connected TV (although they are equally placed with SFR on this last measure). They also have greater access to advanced TV services such as mobile apps, VOD, HDTV, programme search and series recording. Orange, SFR and Bouyges are understandably wondering how they can compete with Free’s advanced service offers at such low price points.

We found one chink of light for Free's rivals: surprisingly, perhaps, the company has similar levels of overall dissatisfaction with its TV service as SFR and Orange. And Free rates worst of the three main quad-play providers on customer service. They will have to improve many aspects of their service to compete with Free but at least SFR and Orange know that there is at least one weak point to attack.

David Mercer

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