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France Télécom trailing rivals

Former giant now claims just 14% of new broadband customers

FRANCE Télécom is lagging behind rivals in capturing new clients for broadband.

The former state-owned telecoms giant, which had a telecoms monopoly until 1998, now picks up just 14% of new broadband customers even though it still has about half the market in terms of existing clients. It had 29% of new customers at the end of last year.

The firm has taken fourth place behind competitors SFR, Free and Bouygues Télécom.

The firm has reacted to the latest figures by saying a drop was anticipated due to the fact it stopped offering promotional rates between mid-January and mid-February.

With normal prices of around e5 more than those of its competitors, the firm tries to compete by making offers taking monthly fees below e29.99 which has become the industry standard.

A company spokeswoman said that figures were expected to pick up again now promotional rates had restarted.

Asked why the firm did not just lower its prices, she said that for historical reasons it was complicated for them to do that. However there was a low-price offer for just internet alone, she said.

She said customer service issues would not have played a role as on the whole their service was appreciated by clients and had been awarded prizes.

One of the firm’s directors, Delphine Ernotte, said their promotions started again in mid-February and they were confident of seeing a pick-up in market “conquest” in figures for the next part of the year.

France Télécom has also launched new marketing ideas, including a “quadruple play” offer, with mobile phone added to the standard landline phone, broadband and digital television deal.

This will allow them to compete with Bouygues Télécom’s Ideo offer.

One possible silver lining for the firm is that their drop in market share could allow them to use their database of mobile phone customers to market broadband and vice versa.

This has so far been disallowed by the Competition Authority on grounds that France Télécom was too dominant, though it is permitted to some of their competitors.

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