European mobile service revenue growth improved by 0.5ppts to -7.2% in Q2 2014, but all of this and more was driven by a reduced regulatory impact; underlying growth has been stuck at around 6% for the last four quarters, with progress in some areas consistently being countered by further pricing pressure

Industry consolidation has progressed to some extent, but would have had little impact in the quarter. Further in-country mobile/mobile mergers are more than likely but uncertainty driven by the changing European Commission may be delaying decisions to move forward

The UK example shows that consolidation is not necessary for market repair, but in the present environment the smaller operators in continental Europe have every incentive to be as disruptive as possible to encourage their acquisition, so further mergers cannot come soon enough

European mobile service revenue growth again disappointed in Q4, dropping slightly from -8.9% to -9.1%, with underlying revenue growth dropping a little further from -6.0% to -6.3%, again reaching a record low

There had been hopes that improved GDP growth would drive a volume rebound, that price declines would start to annualise out, and that declining out-of-bundle usage would wane in its impact as this usage declined. In the event, ongoing price competition from smaller operators, MVNOs and quad play offerings, combined with surging use of OTT communications platforms, have dominated trends

In the medium term, the development of 4G and Vodafone’s Project Spring may bring some much needed network differentiation back to the market, allowing pricing power to return to the larger operators. However, it will be 2015-2016 before these factors come into play: in the short term, the main source of optimism is consolidation

This report on the French broadband market examines growth trends in 2009 and forecasts to 2012, updates our previous assessments of the commercial significance of IPTV in the triple play (a bundle of broadband, telephony and TV), and details the state of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) deployment

Shrugging off the recession (milder and shorter than in the UK), the French broadband market is set to reach 19.6 million connections by the end of 2009, up 1.9 million on 2008 – only 12% less than the level of net adds of 2008. With 2009 better than we expected, we now anticipate a sharper slowdown in net adds in 2010, with 1.4 million net adds projected. We still expect the total to reach 22.8 million connections by 2012 (70% household penetration)

Iliad is the only candidate in the rerun of the French 4th 3G Licence tender and we believe its bid will be successful

Free Mobile could launch by the autumn of 2011 under a ‘low cost’ model

We remain doubtful on the venture’s economic prospects – Iliad appears to underestimate the network and subscriber acquisition costs required to build a mobile operator of profitable scale

Iliad, now France’s number two broadband provider, will increase total revenues by 10% per year by 2012, mainly by growing its subscriber base (rather than ARPU) in a market however rapidly reaching maturity

Excluding mobile, the EBITDA margin could rise by five percentage points to 40% in 2012, but a mobile launch in 2011 would pare the margin down to 32%

Funding both the fibre-to-the-home and the mobile network capex commitments could compress Iliad’s cumulative cash flow to just €168 million during 2009-2012, thus requiring new financing or a minority partner in the mobile venture


In Q4 2008 Iliad added 100,000 subscribers in a slowing French broadband market

A restructured 4th 3G licence call for tender is now expected in March, with a cost of €206 million for a 2x5MHz spectrum block, which Iliad is expected to bid for

We remain sceptical that Iliad will earn a return from this, with the 3G-only business model challenging even with a reduced licence cost and restricted network rollout