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Migros and Coop do battle over mobile phones

Migros and Coop are fighting over pre-paid mobile-phone packages (swissinfo montage)

One week after Migros, Coop is launching its own pre-paid mobile-phone package. Migros has joined forces with the operator Swisscom Mobile, Coop with Orange.

The two Swiss retail giants are fighting over mobile phones to gain their customers' loyalty and to consolidate the image of their low-price product range.

The mobile-phone battle is not being fought between operators, as might be expected, but between the two heavyweights of the Swiss retail trade: Migros and Coop.

In collaboration with Swisscom Mobile, Migros declared war last week with a pre-paid SIM card called "M-Budget Mobile". The basic service allows customers to make calls for SFr0.44 ($0.35) a minute and send and receive SMS text messages (at SFr0.10 per SMS).

Migros is looking after the sale and product placement side of the business, while Swisscom provides its technical platform. The retailer is aiming to sell 50,000 "M-Budget Mobile" SIM cards by the end of 2005.

Coop's package appears on the market on Tuesday and is in keeping with its "Price Guarantee" range of discount items.

"CoopMobile" is slightly more expensive at SFr0.46 a minute but comes with voicemail, the ability to send and receive multimedia MMS messages and it lets users keep their old phone numbers.

No frills

By getting involved in pre-paid mobile phones, the two brands hope to lure customers into their stores – consumers who will have to top up their phone credit on a regular basis.

Telecommunication is an attractive sector – it lets Migros and Coop, faced with customers increasingly sensitive to call charges, use their low-cost range as a marketing tool.

"M-Budget represents good quality at a favourable price," says Urs Riedener, head of marketing at Migros. "Swisscom guarantees the quality that we demand and we can supply it at the best price because we concentrate on the mass market with a no-frill product."

It's the same story at Coop. "Our 'Price Guarantee' strategy enables us to offer our customers a novelty at a favourable price and with an optimal service," explains Jörg Ackermann, deputy head at Coop.

For Coop and Migros this is also a means of consolidating their positions before the arrival in Switzerland of discounters such as Aldi and Lidl.

It is still the case, however, that rates for mobile phones in Switzerland remain higher than the more competitive European countries. Switzerland's neighbours can make calls for SFr0.15-0.25 a minute.

The fight has clearly only just begun.

swissinfo, Luigino Canal

In brief

On Tuesday Coop launches CoopMobile under its "Price Guarantee" brand. Clients will pay SFr0.46 a minute for Coop's pre-paid mobile service, but SMS text messages will not cost more than Migros'.

Customers will pay SFr0.44 a minute if they use Migros' M-Budget pre-paid mobile-phone service, and SFr0.10 per SMS.

M-Budget Mobile does not provide MMS or answering services, unlike CoopMobile, and customers cannot retain their old mobile number.

Migros is aiming to sell some 50,000 "M-Budget Mobile" SIM cards by the end of 2005.

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