Thursday, October 13, 2005

Jupiter: The "i-mode" French Touch

Thomas Husson posts his thoughts at the Jupiter Analyst Weblogs on the launch of Bouygues Telecom's i-Mode service. France's third mobile operator, Bouygues new service is called "haut-debit" and runs on its EDGE network.

Husson notes "Bouygues intends to move directly to HSDPA (3.5G) and preferred to invest in EDGE, a 2.5G technology that requires only an update of the GSM network. This is a wise choice since the Bouygues' network is far from saturation (whereas SFR and Orange need additional capacity) and that the investment is much lower (around 250M euros vs billions for 3G networks).

Husson finds the launch pretty interesting not because of their cheap, full-track music download service nor their weak portfolio of handsets, but because of the following reasons:

  • Bouygues is the first to launch an "all you can eat" formula : 9.90 euros / month for unlimited data download and browsing. This is an excellent decision because their old data tariffs were not correctly positionned. The metric of Kilo-byte / Mega-byte was defintitely not consumer friendly.
  • the launch of a mobile TV offer with TPS. That's not a big surprise, since TPS and Bouygues are both part of the TF1 group. Canal+ had been recently launched on the SFR V-live portal. It looks like the exclusive deals are still interesting : worth asking what Orange thinks of that...
  • The launch of IM services : MSN, AOL, Yahoo will be available soon. E-bay will also be part of the i-mode portal.
Husson concludes this is the most successful launch of i-Mode outside of Japan due to heavy marketing and advertising efforts. He then analyzes the state of the i-Mode market in Europe:
i-Mode has not reached critical mass yet in Europe. A little bit more of 5M susbcribers at the end of August 2005. Telefonica has not adopted the i-mode brand nor its business model. No significant economies of scale and scope have been made within the i-mode alliance. O2 recently launched the service in UK and Ireland (it will be launched in 2006 under another brand in Germany due to the E-plus partnership with DoCoMO). They will have to invest a significant amount of money to raise awareness of the i-mode brand and to explain the Mb tariffs, exactly as Bouygues did. However, they will not be able to spend the same amount of money for O2 active (one of the most successful wap deck so far). Running simulatenously the two data brands is a tricky challenge for them.