Bouygues Telecom turns on 4G across France as mobile competition intensifies

Bouygues has become the latest network in France to launch an LTE network in a move it hopes will help it fight back against Free Mobile.

Bouygues Telecom this week became the third operator in France to start its LTE campaign in an effort to regain lost ground following several months of cutthroat competition triggered by Iliad's Free Mobile.

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The operator, which unveiled its LTE tariffs in advance of the launch, has taken a somewhat different approach from its rivals.

Following approval to refarm 1800MHz spectrum from French regulator Arcep, Bouygues Telecom has been able to build out its network more rapidly than rivals and said it would, and already has 63 percent population coverage at launch.

In contrast, both Orange and Vivendi-owned SFR are aiming for 40 percent coverage by the end of the year . These two operators are using 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum for their LTE network rollouts , and are also using 3G dual carrier technology to complement their 4G deployments.

However, Bouygues Telecom has lost what could have been another advantage: Apple's support for more LTE bands in Europe means that the latest iPhones, the 5c and 5s, can also be offered on rival networks. The previous iteration, the iPhone 5, only supported LTE in the 1800MHz band.

Nonetheless, Bouygues Telecom is banking on LTE services to revive its fortunes on the French mobile market following a ferocious price war sparked by enfant terrible Free Mobile. Since the advent of Free Mobile's €19.99 mobile tariff including 3GB of mobile data at the start of 2012, the three operators have been engaged in a fierce battle to retain customers.

For example, SFR now offers Red tariffs that match the Free Mobile plan, while Orange and Bouygues Telecom launched secondary brands Sosh and B&YOU with rival offers. With LTE, the three operators are hoping to gain an edge over Free Mobile, which does not as yet offer 4G services.

Bouygues Telecom is starting its LTE campaign with a month's free service accompanied by a range of smartphone tariffs called Forfait Sensation 4G. One plan includes as much as 16GB of mobile data from €59.99 a month. The company is also including free of charge the World&YOU service, which is based on Fring's application which allows free texts and calls to France when abroad using a wi-fi connection. 

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