What do I need to know?
- Most French mobile operators market to younger users through second brands, rather than plans specifically for the youth market
- The incumbent operators added their youth brands in response to Iliad’s Free Mobile launch in 2012
- The cheapest plans offer genuinely low prices compared to the standard offerings, but the data allowances are so tiny as to make them not entirely worth it
- While MVNOs offer cheaper options than the regular operators, the difference between them isn’t as great as in some other countries
France has the second-largest population in Western Europe, after Germany. Like other European countries, France’s population is skewing older, as birth rates have fallen to one of the lowest levels in the world. The population aged 15-28 accounts for 10.9 million people, or 16.1%.
France’s smartphone penetration stands at 77.5%, third in Europe behind the UK and Germany. The most connected age group, per Statista, is users aged 18-24, of whom 98% have smartphones. The next most-connected group is those aged 25-39, at 95%, followed by teenagers aged 12-17, who have a penetration rate of 86%. These groups are as active on the internet as their peers in other countries, with social networks and media accounting for the bulk of their usage.
What are operators offering?
Like the other three incumbent operators, Orange’s youth-focused plans are available through a sub-brand, in this case Sosh. Sosh’s website doesn’t explicitly mention younger users or advertise an age limit, but its plans are clearly designed for users with less disposable incomes – its highest-priced tier is still cheaper than the lowest priced plan from parent brand Orange, and it advertises that none of its plans are bound by contracts.
|Plan||100Mo (Bloqués)||40Go Série Limitée||80Go Série Limitée||70Go|
The lowest tier from Sosh offers two options for overuse of its data allowance: the “Bloqué” version stops customers accessing data completely when they’ve reached their limit, while the regular version charges EUR0.05 per MB over the allowance. The higher priced tiers, on the other hand, throttle customers’ speeds when they reach their limit.
Interestingly, the lowest priced plan from Sosh is actually more expensive than the equivalent plan from Orange, at least for the first 12 months. However, at the end of the first year that Orange plan’s monthly price jumps from EUR2.99 to EUR7.99. Also, all of Sosh’s plans are currently on 4G only, whereas Orange offers four plans with higher data allowances (including one unlimited plan) on its 5G network.
Like its competitors, Bouygues Telecom launched B&YOU as a brand aimed at younger and value-conscious customers. However, unlike Orange’s Sosh and SFR’s Red, Bouygues has brought B&YOU onto its own main page, and now treats it more as a range of plans than a discrete sub-brand. The main difference is that B&YOU plans are monthly, with no 12- or 24-month contract required.
B&YOU’s plan with the smallest data allowance comes with the option of either blocking data once the limit is reached, or of paying EUR0.05 per MB over the allowance. Interestingly, despite having a smaller data allowance this plan is more expensive than the next largest, and it doesn’t allow customers to use their data in Europe without roaming, like they could on the more expensive tiers. Customers can add a number of additional services to their contracts, from entertainment (Spotify Premium, B.TV) to practical (Onoff, Norton). Each service costs extra on top of the monthly plan, but B&YOU offers one or two months of free trials.
|Function||Music streaming||TV streaming||Two numbers||Security|
Red by SFR is another sub-brand aimed at young and value-conscious consumers, and like the others, its plans don’t require a contract commitment. It also promotes the customizability of its plans, which allow users to change their data allowance and tier whenever they want, and the top-tier plan offers access to SFR’s 5G network for an additional EUR5 per month.
When a customer on the three lower tiers uses up their data allowance, they have the option of buying an additional 1GB for EUR2 up to four times per month; otherwise their data is blocked until the end of the month. If they’re paying for the top tier, they can buy an additional 50GB once per month, for EUR10.
Free doesn’t offer any plans explicitly aimed at younger consumers, but its positioning as a challenger on the French mobile market made it attractive to that demographic when it launched in 2012. The key factors it used to lure consumers away from the three incumbent operators and the mobile virtual network operators were lower prices, monthly contracts and instalment plans for smartphones – all selling points that Orange, Bouygues and SFR emulated when they launched their second brands.
|Plan||Forfait 2EUR||Série Free 80Go||Forfeit Free 5G|
Its lowest-tier plan has both the lowest base price and lowest data allowance, at a paltry 50MB per month, though consumers pay EUR0.05 per MB after they’ve used the initial allowance. Moreover, the plan is free for users who also buy Freebox fixed broadband.
The other two tiers are more generous, offering larger data allowances for lower prices than Free’s competitors, although customers on the Série Free 80Go plan are transferred to the Forfait Free 5G plan after 12 months. Both tiers are throttled when a consumer reaches their data allowance, and the Forfait Free 5G plan offers free access to the confusingly named app, Free Ligue 1 Uber Eats. The app offers highlights, near-live football matches and podcasts relating to the French Football League (though no on-demand food delivery).
Comparing the operators’ cheapest plans against one another, and against their more expensive plans, it’s clear that the best deals are at the highest tiers, where consumers can expect to pay less than EUR1 per GB of data. By contrast, the lowest-tier plans may offer lower monthly payments, but the data allowances are so stingy that, in effect, they cost many times more than their higher-tier equivalents.
|Smallest tier plans||Sosh||B&YOU||Red||Free|
|Highest tier plans||Sosh||B&YOU||Red||Free|
Like other countries, France has a selection of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that promise lower prices than the incumbent operators by positioning themselves as “no frills” options. It also boasts MVNOs that specifically target the youth market, most notably NRJ Mobile, which ties into radio station NRJ. The plans are similar to offerings from the sub-brands listed above, though with the fierce competition caused by Free’s entry into the market, even no frills MVNOs are hard pressed to compete.
|Plan (lowest tiers)||NRJ 100Mo||La Poste Mobile 100Mo||Cdiscount Mobile L’efficace|