Following our questions, Bouygues Télécom provided us with initial answers at the end of December. It has since committed to clarifying the situation by limiting its offer to 200 GB officially. In fact, the term unlimited has disappeared from the client interface. We therefore publish below the answers that were given to us. We will try to go into more detail about this development and what it entails as soon as everything is fully in place.
Bouygues Telecom has been marketing its 4G Box offer for almost a year now. But the ISP always hides a limit of 200 GB at the bottom of its legal documents, sometimes activates it definitively and, above all, refuses to answer our questions on the subject.
At the end of January, Bouygues Telecom launched a new “fixed” internet access offer: the 4G Box. Simply put, it was a solution that allowed a SIM card to be used in a Huawei modem/router to be placed within the house, all with the promise of a ” high speed ” connection for all uses: web, video, online gaming etc.
Our dossier on Bouygues Telecom’s 4G Box:
- Bouygues Telecom launches its offensive in rural areas, at €32.99 per month
- No flow limitation, but an “exceptional” protection measure.
- Bouygues Telecom officialises a limit of 200 GB, its answers to our questions
In practice, this offer is only available in certain areas where ADSL coverage is poor but the “power of the 4G Bouygues Telecom” is well present. Announced at 32.99 euros per month with no commitment, it was intended to enable those who had forgotten about the good and very good speed to finally get a decent connection.
However, by looking at the conditions of the offer and closely monitoring its implementation, we have gone from one disappointment to another, with Bouygues Telecom adopting a simple position: silence.
It all started out well, despite the usual pitfalls of a new offer. As soon as we analysed the legal documents, we noticed problems, such as the fact that the 4G Box was being offered in areas that were nevertheless covered by VDSL or the notion of “adapted” video quality, which was a little vague.
But the biggest concern was a 200 GB limit, which was not mentioned in the Standardised Information Sheet (SIF) but only in the General Terms and Conditions of Service. In fact, it was specified that “to optimise access for all to ournetwork […]in the event of saturation of the cell (antennas) on which you depend, your throughput will be reduced to 512 kbits/s until the end of the billing period above a data volume of 200 GB/month“.
At the time, an employee of the group stated that there was no question of “fair use”: “this mobile network protection measure is not in place, and it will certainly never be implemented“. It was even specified to us: “in the event that the offer should evolve over time to guarantee network quality for all customers, 4G box customers would of course be informed in advance“, the measure being exceptional.
In practice, it’s a little more complicated. We have therefore set up an email box for any person, working at Bouygues Telecom or simply a customer, who would like to provide us with information and documents on the operation of this 4G Box offer and their experience:
Although we had asked for clarification of the terms of the offer as early as January, we have not been informed since then. The only change made is the installation of a new version of the 4G modem router supplied with the offer.
This possible limitation to 200 GB is always hidden at the bottom of the general terms of service and is not mentioned on the ISP’s site, nor in its standardised information sheet. Bouygues Telecom does not therefore publicly talk about an unlimited offer or “fair use” in order to fall through the cracks.
To put it simply: the customer does not know what he is buying and his experience will depend on the operator’s goodwill. For the notion of saturation of a cell is at its sole discretion, with no possible recourse.
But what had to happen, happened. As early as March/April, we noticed that some customers were limited to 200 GB, some of them indicating that they had not been warned beforehand. Twitter is full of these testimonials, as is the Bouygues Telecom forum that the ISP ironically highlights on its page praising the 4G Box offer.
We have therefore followed the subject closely over the last few months and contacted the operator’s press department several times, without ever getting an answer. This was the case from the launch of the offer on many points, and again this summer. Let’s blame it on the holidays.
In September, we were promised an answer, ” awaiting final info “. In October, we added a few questions to the package, again, we will have no feedback on the 4G Box. In November, when asked about other subjects, Bouygues Telecom promised us answers ” quickly “… but not about the 4G Box offer.
In fact, the people in charge of answering us do not seem to be in question, since the decision to clarify or not to clarify things about this offer does not depend on them. And clearly, no one seems to want us to get answers.
In fact, we feel that the ISP has been overwhelmed by its offer in many areas. Testimonies of 200 GB limitations have multiplied in recent months, and one wonders whether Bouygues Telecom is not trying to disgust certain customers to the point of having them cancel to stop marketing at a particular location, since the offer is non-binding.
We recently had the opportunity to discuss this with a client in a small village where ADSL is barely available. Subscribing to the 4G Box offer in February, he was told at the time in the chat by an advisor that ” Yes, absolutely ” the offer was unlimited. When the customer insists that everything is unlimited, he will be referred to the technical service. He had to insist and evoke the limit of 200 GB on his own in order to have the confirmation of it.
Two rooms, two atmospheres
He decided to subscribe anyway. ” Some sites had mentioned it, it was a rumour… At least I was hoping not to be confronted with it. And the saturation of the antenna on which I depend seemed improbable ” he confided to us. It was finally in October that he was restrained for the first time.
For our part, we have tried the “Advisor” experience via the chat proposed on the 4G Box offer page. Out of three trials (with three different consultants), we were told the first time that the offer is unlimited, the second that there is a 200 GB limit and the third that ” is an unlimited offer for Data. You can connect more than 10 brackets at a time without any problem. The speed you will have will be 115Mb/s “.
More problematic, the customer interface of a subscriber, in addition to not detailing the amount of data consumed for the current month, indicates that the offer is… unlimited :
When asked about usage, our customer tells us that he owns an Xbox One where updates can be cumbersome, buys movies in dematerialized format and uses Netflix daily. His girlfriend, a graphic designer, works from home. Thus, the couple reaches the 200 GB limit in about two weeks.
He says he appreciates the offer when it’s not limited: ” When it’s running at full throttle I’m VERY happy with it. The network is good and the throughput is fairly stable. Fifteen times faster than my old ADSL. Except for a big technical problem (at least that I was presented as such) last summer that deprived me of internet for almost two months, I had never had any problem with the 4Gbox“.
But last month, he received a message from his ISP: the 200 GB limit has now become final. Having received one month’s reimbursement after his summer worries and another after the October bridle. Should he remain a customer and make do with his 200GB limit or look for another solution?
From this customer’s point of view what is at issue in this case is Bouygues Telecom’s communication: ” the offer website makes no reference to any limitation whatsoever. Moreover, unless I am mistaken, it is no longer written “unlimited” either. Blur is knowingly maintained“.
That’s the whole point. We have therefore prepared a list of questions for Bouygues Telecom that are currently unanswered. We will publish the ISP’s position as soon as we have clear feedback from them. In the meantime, we’ve used the Arcep’s alert service and requested its position from the regulator.
We will be reviewing Bouygues Telecom’s responses on a monthly basis until we get clear answers to all the points raised. In accordance with our commitments, this article will be made available for Free access as of next month.
- Do you intend to offer a public list of areas covered by the 4G Box offer?
The very nature of the offer imposes eligibility constraints that traditional fixed-line offers, or even mobile offers, do not have. Based on 4G radio technology, the 4G box offer should be offered to customers who are likely to benefit from it.
This eligibility can only be known after a theoretical flow simulation conducted by our network teams. The eligibility engine seems to us more relevant than a map, for example, because it allows us to immediately and simply compare a precise address, that of the prospect, with the last known eligible areas calculated by our engineers. This simulation data is not address lists.
- Do you intend to clearly indicate the limit of 200 GB possible in the FIS and on the offer page?
As a reminder, this is not a commercial condition of the offer but an exceptional traffic management measure, which is why this information is included in the STC and not in the FIS.
A customer who connects to one of the antennas for which this protection is activated, and who has already consumed 200 GB, can still continue to benefit from the Internet at a reduced speed of 512 kbps or try to connect to an unloaded antenna near his home, if one exists.
To do this, periodically unplug and replug the 4G box, or move it around the home, to try to connect to an uncharged antenna.
- Do you intend to make it clear that this 200GB limit may be permanent?
This reduction in flow rate to 512kb/s above 200Gb per month, on loaded cell and only on loaded cell, is not definitive. Nevertheless, it appears that for some loaded antennas, desaturation operations can take more than a month.
- Do you intend to indicate to a future subscriber that he or she is affected by the 200 GB final or partial limit?
As with all 4G box customers, this reduction in throughput is not permanent. This is an exceptional traffic management measure, already outlined in our documents.
- Do you intend to stop using the term “unlimited” for this offer?
No response from Bouygues Telecom on this subject
- What is the procedure for a subscriber to track his data usage?
From February, all 4G box customers will benefit from a gauge enabling them to measure their consumption. This gauge will be available from their customer area
- What is the procedure for a subscriber to find out if his cell is saturated or not?
We do not share such information on our network, for security and confidentiality reasons. For information, a 4G box customer can connect to an average of 2 or 3 authorized antennas.
Our network protection device focuses on the antenna and not on the customer’s offer. It is therefore possible for some customers by rebooting their 4G box to connect to an antenna that is not charged.
Again, this is related to the intrinsic nature of the offer, i.e. based on 4G, radio, and greatly different from the usual fixed technologies.
- What is the technical criterion by which Bouygues Telecom determines that a cell is saturated?
A cell is considered to be loaded when the average data throughput of the users connecting to it regularly falls below a certain threshold over repeated periods.
This threshold has been defined by our network teams in order to guarantee an optimal quality of service for all our customers.
- Are there any other criteria that encourage Bouygues Telecom to activate the 200 GB limit on its 4G Box offer?
None. Cases of prohibited use have been noted, such as the misuse of the offer for business purposes, for example, and for which Bouygues Telecom has terminated the contract.
- How many or what percentage of 4G Box customers are affected by these limitations?
We do not disclose information of this type. Nevertheless, the number of customers who have experienced a reduction in throughput has always been extremely low. This number fluctuates, depending on the loading, and desaturation, of our antennas.