5G and Beyond

Bouygues Telecom boosted by EIT buy in H1

France-based Bouygues Telecom has continued to bounce along in a broadly positive fashion, again largely owing to the acquisition of smaller French player Euro-Information Telecom (EIT) from Crédit Mutuel at the end of 2020.

Now known as Bouygues Telecom Business Distribution (BTBD), the new unit helped boost total mobile subscribers to 14.5 million (excluding machine-to-machine) in the six months to the end of June 2021. BTBD brought in 2.1 million customers at the beginning of 2021, while Bouygues Telecom itself gained 258,000 new customers in the first half (H1).

Around 141,000 mobile subscribers were added in the first quarter (Q1) of the year, meaning that the operator saw a slight deceleration in pace in the second quarter (Q2).

Bouygues Telecom is on a mission to become the second-largest mobile player in France and a "major player in fiber" as part of its "Ambition 2026" objectives. It still has some way to go: At the end of June, Orange reported 22.87 million mobile subscribers after gaining 142,000 in the second quarter, while Altice France-owned SFR said it had 18.16 million after gaining an estimated 105,000 in Q2. Iliad's Free Mobile is in fourth place with 13.34 million subscribers and lost 36,000 net mobile customers in Q2. Bouygues' target is to gain 4 million additional mobile customers by the end of 2026 compared to the end of 2020.

On the fixed side, Bouygues Telecom reported some progress in the high-speed broadband arena, gaining 346,000 fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) subscribers and taking the total to 1.9 million. The operator also said the number of marketed FTTH premises now amounts to 20.9 million. It claims to have a 15.6% share of the national FTTH market, based on data from the Arcep Observatory for the first quarter of 2021.

Growth on target

Bouygues Telecom's financial figures reflected the increase in fixed and mobile subscribers. Revenue in the first six months to the end of June increased 14% year-on-year to €3.5 billion (US$4.1 billion), although growth was lower at 5% on a like-for-like basis. Service revenue also increased by 14%.

EBITDA after leases (EBITDAal) increased 7% to €758 million ($892 million), which the operator said is in line with the annual target. Bouygues Telecom recently raised its full-year 2021 EBITDAal guidance to 7% growth year-on-year, up from 5% previously.

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The EBITDAal margin was two points lower than in the first half of 2020. The operator attributed this to the dilutive effect of integrating BTBD, a change in the revenue mix related to the ramp-up of FTTH, and a €10 million ($11.7 million) decline in roaming revenue.

Operating profit in the first half of 2021 was €335 million ($394 million), up €81 million year-on-year. Gross capex at end-June 2021 was €754 million ($887 million), up €173 million ($203 million) year-on-year, including investments needed for the BTBD integration and for the 5G rollout. Disposals over the same period amounted to €172 million ($202 million), essentially related to the sale of data centers.

5G rising

In April, Bouygues said its 5G network was now present in 28 major towns and cities and confirmed its objective to achieve national coverage by the end of 2021.

As of June 30, French telecoms regulator Arcep indicated that Iliad was still in the lead in terms of 5G sites that had been commercially deployed, with a total of 10,239. Bouygues was next with 2,945, followed by Orange with 1,862 and SFR with 1,751.

France completed its 5G auction in November 2020, when the four operators were awarded licenses to use 3.4–3.8GHz band frequencies.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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