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MVNOs in France: providers and offers in 2019

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You've probably heard about the largest broadband providers in France - Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile. But the French telecom market is much broader today, and there are more than those four suppliers to choose from, mainly with the appearance of so-called MVNO suppliers (or Mobile Virtual Network Operators). But who exactly are these new actors, and what do they have to offer?

What is an MVNO?

MVNOsappeared in France as early as in 1999, and truly started flourishing after 2006, with the appearance of the low cost MNO provider Free Mobile. But who are these providers, and what makes them worth considering?

The appearance of virtual providers

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Mobile Virtual Network Operators are, simply put, telecom providers that don’t own a network - which means they are, in essence “virtual”. They oppose themselves to MNOs (Mobile Network Operators), which are at a total of 4 in France. This is because a French regulation has put a limit of 4 on the number of physical networks allowed to be in existence on the territory.

As a result, in order to function, providers other than Orange, Free Mobile, Bouygues Telecom and SFR have to buy telecommunications off an MNO. Once pruchased, they can then sell these to their customers, at very discounted rates.

In 2016, there were around 7 millions clients subscribed to MVNOs contracts in France: This is quite a significant number, but still represents less altogether than any single MNO (the smallest of which, Free Mobile, had a customer base of 12 million at the time). MVNOs are thus not competing on the same level as the largest providers yet, and it seems like customers still tend to favour Free, Bouygues, SFR and Orange today, in part because of these providers’ legitimacy and notoriety.

Below is a chart representing the repartition of the French market for providers:

The networks used by MVNOs in France

As stated above, MVNOs rely on the big telecom providers to get access to network. Here is how different MVNOs have chosen their partner supplier in order to operate:

MVNO Network used
Afone Mobile - Budget Telecom - Cdiscount Mobile - Club Budget
Cofidis Mobile - Joi Telecom - La Poste Mobile - Prixtel
Reglo Mobile - SIM+ - Vectone Mobile
SFR network
Lebara Mobile - Lycamobile Bouygues Telecom network
Bazile Telecom - Syma Mobile - Transatel Mobile Orange network
Coriolis SFR + Orange network
Auchan Telecom - Cdiscount Mobile - CIC Mobile
Cofidis Mobile - NRJ Mobile - Soon Mobile
SFR, Orange and Bouygues Telecom network

The different types of MVNOs in France

Light and full MVNOs

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These two types of MVNOs, “light” and “full”, are differentiated by the following technical equipments:

  • a vocal messaging platform
  • an interactif vocal server
  • a location register / centralised database
  • and a mobile phone commutation centre

A provider having the above specificities will be considered a full MVNO, which compared to the light ones will be able to provide all the same functionalities as MNOs, apart from the network coverage. This more extensive amount of equipment and functionalities impacts the costs for full MVNOs, and can explain why they charge more for their offers than their light counterparts.

Additionally, full MVNOs have the agency to negotiate tariffs with classic suppliers, and adopt the best current technology such as 4G+ coverage. They can also provide their customers with their own SIM card.

An example of full MVNO is Euro Information Telecom, which has a range of provider brands such as Auchan Telecom, NRJ Mobile, Crédit Mutuel Mobile, and CIC Mobile.

Are MVNOs right for me?

So, is it worth changing phone supplier and switching to an MVNO today? It all depends on your needs.

In order to give you a rough idea of what a low cost offer generally looks like in France, here is what the infamous €2 Free Mobile offer includes (per month), as a reference:

  • 2 hours of calls to fixed lines and mobile, in France and internationally
  • Illimited texts and MMS in France
  • 50 MB of data

With this in mind, below is a selection of some of the MVNO offers currently on the market in France: They are ranked from cheapest to most expensive and allowances and prices are given for a month.

MVNO Price Calls and SMS/MMS Data allowance
Syma Mobile €1.90 2 hours of calls + unlimited SMS/MMS in France and the DOM TOM 1 GB
SIM+ €2 1 hour of calls + 60 SMS None
Prixtel €2 to €7.99 Unlimited calls, texts and MMS 10 to 200 MB
La Poste Mobile €3.99 2 hours of calls + unlimited SMS 100 MB
Auchan Telecom €3.99 2 hours of calls + unlimited texts and MMS 20 MB
NRJ Mobile €9.99 Unlimited calls, texts and MMS in France 100 MB

Looking for a cheap phone deal that will suit your needs? Contact Selectra's English speaking advisors at 09 77 55 72 27 to benefit from the most competitive offer for you, depending on your situation: You can also ask for a free callback.