France’s Bouygues Telecom has responded to pricing pressure from rival Iliad by saying that its 4G services will be available to existing customers at no extra cost.
The announcement comes just days after Iliad (Paris, France) upped the competitive stakes by publishing details of new low-cost 4G services, revealing that customers would be able to make use of the super-fast technology for as little €19.99 ($27.15) a month.
Existing Bouygues (Paris, France) subscribers will be able to use 4G services without signing up to a new minimum term contract, says the operator.
Iliad has caused massive disruption in France’s mobile-phone market since its entry into the sector in early 2012.
Undercutting the three incumbents on the price of services, the new entrant ultimately forced Orange (Paris, France), SFR (Paris, France) and Bouygues to overhaul their own tariffs or risk losing additional customers.
All three of those players subsequently pinned their hopes on 4G, believing they would be able to charge higher rates for the high-speed service and create the conditions for future sales growth.
But Iliad may have ripped up those plans by taking its price war into the 4G segment.
The operator has claimed that its €19.99 4G tariff – offering 20GB of data usage a month – works out at just a fifth of the rates being charged by rivals.
According to an earlier report from the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, Bouygues was had been charging €29.99 a month for just 3GB of data usage before this week’s announcement, while a 3GB plan from SFR costs more than €40.
Nevertheless, Iliad appears to lag its rivals on 4G coverage, having deployed 700 antennas covering about 1,000 towns and cities across the country.
Bouygues is reported to have rolled out more than 4,500 4G antennas and Orange nearly 3,500.
Moreover, although Iliad boasts it is one of just two French operators with 20MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum dedicated to 4G services, the operator is at a spectrum disadvantage in other respects, lacking any of the 800MHz spectrum that is ideal for providing good in-building services and covering less densely populated regions.
Orange, the other operator with 20MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum, also holds licenses to use 10MHz in the 800MHz band, while Bouygues has 15MHz of 2.6GHz and 10MHz of 800MHz spectrum.