France was well and truly in the grip of a price war over fourth generation (4G) internet service with French Telecoms giant Bouygues announcing a new offer on Monday just a week after rivals Free stole a charge on the market with its own offer.
Bouygues' offer of ultra high-speed 4G internet at no extra cost for its existing 3G customers may yet provoke more offers from France's other telecoms giants like orange and SFR in the run up to Christmas.
“From today, Bouygues Telecom is democratizing 4G by making the largest 4G network in France even more accessible,” the company said in a statement.
“Customers who have signed up for [our 3G services] will automatically benefit from 4G, without any additional cost or new commitment,” the statement added.
A spokesperson from Bouygues confirmed to The Local on Monday that the offer was also open to new subscribers as of Monday, although it is not yet available for anyone with one of Bouygues’ no-contract, low-cost smartphones B&You.
Monday’s announcement, which offers ultra high-speed mobile internet for €30 a month, intensifies an all-out price war among French mobile providers, after budget outfit Free took the initiative last week, announcing free 4G as part of its standard, €20 package.
Shortly after Free's announcement last week France’s Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon “invited customers to check the maps showing the coverage before making their choice.”
Hamon and Fluer Pellerin, the minister for small businesses also sent out a reminder that mobile companies were required to offer clear information to customers about the extent of their coverage.
Free's owner Xavier Niel also said on Tuesday it would provide even more data as part of is standard 20 euro ($27) per month package.
The announcement hit the share price of its competitors including Bouygues.
Shares in Orange dropped 3.0 percent 9.25 euros. Bouygues fell 3.1 percent to 26.86 euros. SFR-owner Vivendi slid 2.3 percent to 18.19 euros.
Consumers will be faced with a choice between Free’s lower prices and Bouygues’ extensive 4G network – which covers 63 percent of the country since its launch in October.
4G is a nickname for the fourth generation of mobile phone communications technology, whose main advantage to the average consumer is ultra-fast data processing.
With their 4G networks, Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free allow users to download music and files from the internet on to their smartphones up to 10 times faster than the current standard with 3G.
That increase in speed also enables high-definition video streaming and online gaming, as well as smoother teleconferencing for businesses.