Maverick et abuse of dominant position

Law & Economics Workshop organized by Concurrences in partnership with Iliad, Fréget – Tasso de Panafieu and RBB Economics

Maxime Lombardini

The entry of a maverick on the French telecom market

The last fifteen years have been marked by the success of the opening to competition, but we must remain vigilant as the return to the past can be rapid.

In the early 2000s, the French telecom market was dominated by an ultra-powerful player. Today, there are four players in good overall health, although one of them is less so, mainly because of the decision ten years ago to abandon the fixed telephony market). Mobile coverage, especially for 4G, is good in France: coverage obligations are high, prices are fairly low. Digital penetration is very good, whereas the Internet was originally viewed with suspicion.

This success is due to proactive regulation and the presence of a maverick who tried to be aggressive in terms of price and simplicity of offers: Free now has 16 million customers with only four offers. Free has made investments gradually: the company started with wholesale offers, and then quickly built its network, work that continues today, particularly with fiber. Obtaining the fourth telecom license was vital in view of the need to integrate fixed-mobile offers. The benefits of competition in the mobile market were very significant. Three years ago, some economists predicted a collapse in investment due to the entry of a new operator. This has not happened, investment is at an all-time high. If 4G has grown so fast (70% of the population covered in 18 months), it is thanks to the competition brought about by this change. Moreover, direct employment in the sector has stabilised since 2009.

Photos © Léo-Paul Ridet.

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