France's telecom regulator Arcep said total revenue of the market's four operators increased by 0.8% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2019 after almost two years of market contraction, supported by a 3.6% rise in mobile services revenue.
Total quarterly revenue amounted to just under €9.2 billion ($9.9 billion), of which almost €3.4 billion ($3.7 billion) was generated by mobile services and almost €4.2 billion ($4.5 billion) by fixed. Although fixed telecoms revenue fell 0.7% year-on-year, Arcep noted that this was an improvement on the first nine months of 2019, when the average decline amounted to 2.8%. It seems that revenue from high-speed broadband access has stabilized, even returning to growth at the end of 2019 with a year-on-year increase of 2.3%.
Arcep said an increasing number of mobile users are connecting to the Internet via 4G networks. The number of 4G SIM cards grew by 7% year-on-year to 54.8 million, out of 77.2 million in total. Data usage is also rising strongly, with average consumption increasing 43% to 7 gigabytes per month. Average data use by 4G users increased by 30% in a year to 9.5 gigabytes per month. Furthermore, average monthly bills increased for the first time in 2019, rising by €0.20 ($0.22) year on year to €14.60 ($15.77). Most customers are now on postpaid contracts as opposed to prepaid.
It's worth remembering here that French mobile revenue went into something of a tailspin after Iliad's Free entered the market with a low-cost mobile plan in 2012. In its report for the fourth quarter of 2015, Arcep was able to report a slowdown in total service revenue decline to 2.7%, compared with a 7.9% fall in the fourth quarter of 2013, for example.
In terms of fixed broadband, total high-speed or very high-speed connections increased by 2.3% to 29.76 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. However, this figure disguises the fact that fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections increased 47.2% to over 7 million, as xDSL and cable connections continued to fall. At the end of 2019, 23.5 million premises were covered by high-speed or very high-speed broadband networks, of which 18.5 million or 78% had access to FTTH networks – a rise of 4.8 million year-on-year.