France’s telecoms industry regulator Arcep has published its findings on the mobile communications market in France and its overseas territories for the period ended 31 March 2012, showing strong growth since the arrival of Iliad’s Free Mobile start-up in January. The watchdog reported that the total number of mobile service customers in metropolitan France and the overseas territories stood at 69.5 million, thanks to net additions of close to 900,000 SIMs in the quarter, a cellular penetration of 106.5% of the national population. Net growth in Q1 2012 far outstripped the average for the preceding five years (of 300,000 SIMs) it said, as Free Mobile made an instant impact on the mainland. Arcep added that in January-March the total number of gross sales (7.8 million) and account cancellations (6.9 million) both reached ‘exceptionally high levels’ in the past quarter.
Arcep said that the total number of mobile customers in mainland France stood at 66.8 million at the end of March 2012, up 6.1% on the same time in 2011, of which roughly three quarters (74%) were on monthly subscriptions. The increase in the number of flat rate plans was much stronger in the first quarter of 2012 it said – rising by 1.6 million in January-March, compared to 900,000 in 4Q11. Metropolitan France mobile network operators (MNOs) Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange France and SFR collectively reported a total 59.4 million mobile subscribers, up 940,000 quarter-on quarter. Meanwhile, the number of mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) customers decreased by around 90,000 to 7.5 million by the end of March 2012 – equivalent to 11.15% of the market, down from 11.43% three months earlier. The use of mobile number portability (MNP) also leapt during the first quarter of the year, with 2.6 million numbers being ported, compared to one million in Q4 2011.