A EUR€16 per month double-play Internet service is now offered by Bouygues Télécom’s “B&You” low-cost brand for the French market.
This service, which is capable of being operated “by the month” without a a minimum contract, offers 20Mb/s Internet bandwidth via an ADSL setup along with inclusive fixed and mobile calls to France (including the Départements Outres Mer as well as Mayotte) and most of the popular international destinations. Being the “double-play” service, there isn’t the IPTV service with the many pay-TV channels but this would work well with people who use”over-the-air TV or Internet-hosted “over-the-top” services like YouTube or Apple TV.
Here, you purchase the “box” that is part of the service for EUR€35 and have to have your premises with a regular telephone line in place. This has to be connected to an exchange that is dégroupé (unconditional local loop access) for Bouygues Télécom. The equipment available for this service is an older generation unit which works as a basic Wi-Fi-equipped home-network edge.
But where would this plan drop in to place? It is one of a few “by-the-month” plans that I would see as courting the “holiday-home” / “occasionally-occupied” market. Think of that chic Parisian apartment that simply serves as a “bolt-hole” or that holiday house used in the Aquitaine on the summer weekends.
This is yet another sign of a highly-competitive Internet-service market in France that is also encompassing mobile telephony and Internet service.
There are two main usage classes that ISPs and telecommunciations carriers will have to cater towards when it comes to providing fixed or mobile communications and Internet service.
One is a “multi-line” mobile contract that allows multiple post-paid mobile devices to exist on the same account at cost-effective tariffs. The other is catering to fixed-line communications services that serve secondary locations, especially those that aren’t occupied on a full-time basis.
The multi-line mobile contract
The reason that the multi-line mobile contract needs to be available to home or small-business users is that most mobile-wireless-communications users will end up maintaining at lest two, if not three or more mobile communications devices.These kind of plans are typically sold to larger businesses who have a large fleet of mobile devices and are sold for a large premium with a large minimum-device requirement but they need to be available for the small number of devices that a householder or small-business owner would own.
The typical scenario would be a smartphone used for voice, SMS/MMS messaging and on-device Internet use; alongside a data-only device like a tablet or laptop that either has integrated wireless broadband or is connected to a separate wireless broadband service via a USB modem or “Mi-Fi” wireless-broadband router.
Feature that are typically offered in these contracts include a data allowance that is pooled amongst the devices and / or reduced per-device plan fees. In some cases, the services may provide unlimited “all-you-can-eat” voice telephony and text messaging or a similar option.
An increasing number of mobile-telephony operators are tapping this market by offering these plans. For example, the two main mobile-telephony players in the USA, AT&T and Verizon are putting up shared-data plans from US$40 per month for 1Gb of data to up to US$50 for 500Gb of data on AT&T with similar pricing from Verizon. Both these companies offer unlimited talk and text for phones connected to the plan. Similar efforts have taken place with Bougyes Télécom in France and Airtel in India where they are offering shared-data plans as part of their tariff charts. There has even been rumours that Telstra was to be the first Australian mobile phone provider to run a shared-data plan for the Australian market.
Fixed-line plans for partially-used secondary locations
This user class represents people who maintain city apartments, holiday homes and seasonal homes like summer houses but don’t live in these locations on a full-time basis. Typically they are occupied for shorter periods like a weekend or a week at a time or, in the case of a seasonal home, a few consecutive months. It is known for some of these properties to be shuttered for many consecutive months at a time.
On the other hand, this market isn’t serviced readily by the fixed-line telephony, pay-TV and Internet providers, save for Orange (France Télécom) who offer a “by-the-month” package for Internet and telephony to the French market. Here they got in to a spat with SFR because SFR, who was buying wholesale service from Orange, wanted to offer a similar “by-the-month” service for these customers. On the other hand, users are sold plans that have lesser call or data allowances and may be lucky to have the option to have all the service locations on one account.
Again, larger enterprises who have many services and a large amount of call traffic fare better than smaller businesses or residential users.
These users could be satisfied with a “by-the-month” service or a seasonal plan that provides full service for a time period that is predetermined by the customer with limited service outside that time period. Such a limited service could be specified to cater for security and home-automation equipment used to monitor the secondary premises or keep it in good order.
If a plan works on call or data allowance and the user maintains services provided by the same provider at each location, there could be the ability to offer plans that have the allowances pooled across the locations. Similarly, if a user has the same service provider or a related company provide communications services to all the locations, they could offer a reduced price for all of the services. It doesn’t matter if the secondary property is on the same service plan as the primary property or on a lesser plan that has fewer services or smaller allowances.
What needs to happen is that telephone and Internet companies need to pay attention to customers’ needs and look for the “gaps in the market” that currently exist. This could allow for a range of tariffs that is more granular and able to suit particular needs. It also includes situations where a user is responsible for a small number of services of the same kind whether as multiple wireless-broadband devices or fixed-line services serving two or more properties.
In the USA, some of the carriers who run wireless-broadband service have had to deal with an untested but real market in the form of the multiple-device user. This is where an account holder maintains multiple wireless-broadband devices like a smartphone, tablet or “Mi-Fi” router, Here, they are having to formulate the right plans that encompass multiple devices and have them gain access to larger bandwidth-allowance pools. It will take some time for these plans to be adjusted properly as the “bugs” and customer-service issues are ironed out in order to achieve the right multi-device plan.
But in France, a spat has occurred between SFR and France Télécom (Orange) over another untested but real service class that is facing the telecommunications aind Internet-service industry. This is a service that is provided to a secondary house like a city flat or a holiday house that is lived in on an occasional basis; and is considered important with France with 3 million householders owning such a place that is typically occupied 44 days in a year.
The accusation that is being raised by SFR is that Orange is working in an uncompetitive manner when targeting this market by offering a particular non-committed Internet package for this user class. SFR say that they can’t offer a similar deal because of their wholesale-bandwidth purchasing agreement with Orange.
There is a reality that people who use these properties do use a wireless broadband service due to its suitability to temporary setups and “there-and-then” setup requirements. But there is a desire by the carriers to provide the “full-bore” fixed broadband service, especially as part of a fixed-line telephony or triple-play package to these houses.
This is augmented more so by the desire for the competitive operators needing to pitch to this market and yield a “secondary-home” service that represents high value in a similar vein that is expected across France.
Personally, I would like to see other telecommunications and Internet-service operators that exist outside France looking at the “secondary-residence” user class more seriously and pitch telecommunications and Internet services that mean real value to them. This includes rental plans for services that are occasionally used such as 3-month / 12-month plans, plans that offer value to multiple-location services and, where applicable, services where bandwidth allowances for many locations are pooled to a larger allowance.
This also should encompass homes which are occupied on a seasonal basis like “summer homes” or houses that are let out to other users on a short-term basis. As well, it could encompass home / business setups where a person has a home office but also maintains a shopfront or secondary office for their business and they want the same communications needs replicated at both sites.
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