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MVNOs Battle it Out in France

France has long lagged behind its Western European neighbors in mobile penetration because of lower usage of prepaid services. As penetration in Italy and the UK continues to edge above 100 percent, mobile penetration in France as forecasted by Pyramid Research will reach just 78 percent in 2005. To increase penetration, the French regulatory body ART opened mobile operator networks to MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) as an alternative to incumbent operators in France. Recently, several MVNO launch plans were unveiled � NRJ and Coriolis plan to roll out services on SFR�s network, M6 intends to piggyback on Orange�s network whilst Tele2 has already launched services on Orange�s network. So far, the three MVNOs that launched in 2004 � Debitel, Breizh and Universal Music - have not massively threatened the incumbent network operators. We believe that apart from Tele2, the newly announced MVNOs will fuel price erosion but will only make a slight impact on the dominance of the three incumbents � Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom. So far, the French operators have succeeded in preserving their dominance by signing up MVNOs on their own terms. Of the three MVNOs signed up in 2004 - Debitel, Breizh and Universal Music - none are capable of mounting a strong nationwide challenge to the incumbents.

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