Posts filed under ‘France Telecom’
France Telecom (Orange) aims to launch its new Armenian operation in autumn 2009, its CEO Didier Lombard is quoted as saying in an interview with the Armenia President, Mr. Serzh Sargsyan, on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Mr Lombard announced only scant details of the French firm’s rollout plan, but did say that he expected the new services would be ‘in demand’.
The French heavyweight was unveiled as the winner of Armenia’s third mobile operator licence in October 2008, after submitting the highest bid in the ongoing tender process. The French telco was one of three groups shortlisted in August that year to participate in an international tender for the third mobile concession. Orange tendered roughly EUR51.5 million (USD72 million) for the concession, roughly five times the state’s EUR10 million minimum asking price. The other bidders, Tele2 of Sweden and the UK-Irish group Blackrock Communications, bid EUR45.6 million and EUR31.7 million, respectively.
Saudi Telecom company (STC) has won Bahrain’s third mobile network operating licence with a bid of BHD86.7 million (USD231 million), the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced yesterday, breaking the duopoly of state-run Batelco and Kuwaiti-owned Zain. According to Reuters, STC plans to launch its Bahraini operations in the second half of this year and aims to acquire a 20% market share in ten years. The Saudi telco has also committed itself to establishing a USD300 million venture capital fund in Bahrain that will nurture communications and IT companies in the region. Three other firms had registered interest in the auction, but did not bid. Mohammed al-Amer, chairman of the TRA, confirmed that these were Bahraini operators 2Connect and Mena Telecom alongside a consortium including France Telecom subsidiary Jordan Telecom. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have strong links, as several million people cross a causeway linking the two kingdoms every year.
Orange Romania has announced that its investments in 2008 totalled EUR200 million (USD280 million), including EUR5 million on the expansion of its network of retail outlets. The French-owned cellco says it has now spent a total of EUR1.6 billion on the development of its operations in Romania. It claimed more than 10.2 million subscribers and a 38% market share at the end of September.
In a move that France Telecom itself has called a “serious blow,” France’s Competition Council has temporarily suspended the agreement the firm has with Apple that lets its French operator Orange sell the iPhone 3G exclusively. The competition watchdog said the ban, which takes effect on Thursday, is aimed at letting consumers buy the gadget on contract from competing operators SFR and Bouygues Telecom, right in time for the holiday sales season. France Telecom said it would appeal the decision.
So, how angry are France Telecom execs with this decision? In a statement issued today, the global telecoms group had nothing but sharp criticism for the Competition Council whom it accused of making a decision without “in-depth examination,” that would not only “undermine Orange’s efforts to develop high-speed mobile services in France,” but would have a “major impact” on the market, with possible “serious consequences on manufacturers, as well as their subcontractors and software suppliers.” The best, however, was reserved for the number three operator Bouygues Telecom, which initiated the complaint in mid-September.
France Telecom basically accused its smaller rival, which it noted was “most behind” in rolling out its 3G network,” of crying to the Competition Council, rather than “offering genuine competition based on innovative offers.” It also noted that Orange has had the iPhone exclusive deal for a year now, but that it took Bouygues Telecom until now, just before the lucrative holiday sales season to request these “urgent conservative measures.”
The Council said in a statement that France Telecom’s five-year deal with Apple, which locks subscribers into a 12-24 month contract with Orange, adds another obstacle for consumers in a market already suffering from a lack of competition. Any future exclusivity deals would also be limited to three months at a time. As for an appeal, it’s going to take a long time for France Telecom to get the decision reversed, if at all. An “in-depth examination of the agreement” would likely take 12-15 months to complete, a Council spokesperson told Reuters.
Bouygues Telecom said in a statement it hoped to start selling the iPhone as soon as possible, while France’s second largest operator the Vivendi-Vodafone owned SFR, said it has “always been interested” in selling the iPhone, “but not at any price.”
L’iPhone, as its known in France, has been good to France Telecom, which said it has sold 450,000 of the 3G gadgets to date. As for other operators around the world, the iPhone has helped lure subscribers and boost data usage. The council estimated that Orange raked in 220 million euros ($308.2 million) from iPhone 3G sales from its July 18 launch to November 5. As for Apple, the ruling probably won’t be as much of a blow, especially as it has already dropped its exclusivity strategy in favor of selling through multiple operators in other European countries.