After a healthy start 18 months ago, 4G has begun to seduce the French public, with 10 million users now signed-up. The uptake of 4G was historically fast, with users taking to 4G 10 times faster than they did with 3G. Although Europe clearly trailed the US the roll-out of 4G, clearly things are starting to catch-up here.
Orange and SFR are currently leading with 3.3 million and 3 million subscribers respectively, with Bouygues trailing at 2.5 million. Free was not officially included in 10 million tally highlighted by Les Echos as they’ve yet to disclose numbers. But Free has made quite a bit of progress in a very short period in terms of their level of coverage which, by their own admission, was virtually non-existent a year ago. Now they purport to lead most of Europe in terms of 4G coverage. No word though on whether this has driven up subscription rates.
Two big drivers in France and elsewhere in Europe have been increase in consumption of content that necessitates super high-speed access and the introduction of various new ‘4G friendly’ handsets, many at sub 100 euro pricepoints, that were linked to the 4G roll-out. With 4G still growing at a healthy clip, the next big step will be 4G+ and even 4G++ which Bouygues, for example, is already expecting will help them get a leg-up on the competition. Bouygues is also one of a few providers partnering with Eurotunnel to bring 4G to Eurostar travellers (the service just launched this past Friday). However, it only works for now in the direction of Paris to London. Those looking for service in the other direction will have to wait until May 2015.