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France Telecom hints at new web fees

06 июля 2010

France Telecom signalled that it is preparing to follow the example of AT&T by charging its bandwidth-hungry smartphone customers more if they are heavy surfers of the web.

Stéphane Richard, the French telecoms group’s chief executive, said “all-you-can-eat” tariffs – under which mobile phone customers can surf the internet as much as they want – were “unsustainable”.

He made the comments after unveiling a five-year plan for France Telecom that is partly designed to improve staff morale, following a series of suicides that plunged the group into crisis last year.

France Telecom is to spend €900m ($1.1bn) on a new “social contract” with its domestic employees after previous restructurings were partly blamed for more than 50 suicides at the group since 2008.

The contract will cover improved benefits and working conditions for staff between this year and 2012, as well as the hiring of 10,000 new employees at France Telecom’s domestic business.

The cost will be partially offset by savings generated by older staff working part time. Telecoms groups across the developed world are grappling with how to secure more revenue from the fast-growing popularity of internet-connected smartphones led by Apple’s iPhone.

To maximise iPhone sales since the smartphone’s launch in 2007, most mobile operators introduced tariffs under which customers can download as much data as they want for a fixed monthly fee.

But the subsequent explosion of data traffic on mobile networks is prompting operators to reassess their tariffs.

AT&T of the US said this month that smartphone customers would pay according to how much data they used. O2, Telefónica’s UK subsidiary, followed suit.

Mr Richard told the Financial Times: “We are thinking about changing the pricing approach of the access to data on mobile networks because we think – as do our peers – that the explosion of data traffic on mobile networks cannot be managed with unlimited pricing plans.

“We will have to think about different approaches combining limited access and quality of service.”

Mr Richard’s five-year plan also highlights France Telecom’s appetite for acquisitions.

To restore growth at the group, Mr Richard said France Telecom could spend up to €7bn on acquisitions as it seeks to double its revenue from emerging markets over five years.

Mr Richard said the group was “potentially interested” in the African assets of Orascom Telecom, the Cairo-based company. He stressed that the companies were not in talks.

MTN of South Africa last month ended talks about buying Orascom’s African assets.


Источник: Financial Times

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