If you are an infrequent mobile phone user in France there are now a number of attractive low-cost usage tariffs available.
According to Arceps, the French telecoms regulator, retired persons in France with a mobile phone only use it for an average of 26 minutes each month.
If you happen to be an infrequent user then you can either decide to 'pay as you go', or take out a contract for a fixed monthly tariff.
Pay As You Go (PAYG)
One of the most attractive PAYG deals is from Bouygues Telecoms who offer a number of pre-payment card options from €2 upwards. These offer unlimited calls and messages within France, but for a restricted period, which vary by type of contract. The offer also includes international calls for a limited duration, for instance, up to 40 minutes to the UK for a €20 card, valid for one month.
For those who have a smartphone there is very limited internet access for those cards up to one month validity, but those cards with a duration of validity of at least two months have no internet access.
There is a similar offer from La Poste.
For those who prefer to pay a fixed charge (forfait), then prices for some of these contracts has fallen substantially in the past year with contracts that have become far more flexible.
These offers range between €2 and €15 a month.
One of the most attractive is from Free, who entered the market in France in 2012, and have since turned prices inside out.
Their low-cost offer is €2 a month, for which you get 2 hours of free calls, including to fixed lines in 100 international destinations, as well as mobile phones in France, USA and Canada. It also includes unlimited SMS messages. Access to the internet is limited 50Mb a month.
If you are also a client of Free for their internet router (Freebox) the standard offer is reduced to €15.99, while the low-cost option comes free of charge.
There is no minimum contract period.
The offer from Free is really unbeatable, but other operators are endeavouring to compete with it.
For €3.99 a month Bouygues Telecom and La Poste offer 2 hours of calls, but without internet access. For the same price Virgin mobile offer the the same call period plus 100 mb of internet.
If you are prepared to pay a bit more for €9.99 La Poste offer unlimited calls, but no internet. Virgin Mobile have the same offer, but also provide 100 mb of internet.
New kid on the block Joe Mobile is also potentially of interest. This brand, established by mobile phone operator SFR, is an attempt to take Free head-on, with a number of offers designed to appeal primarily to the young, but that are equally valid for seniors.
Thus, for €5 a month they offer 2 hours of calls and 100 mb of internet. More regular internet users might be more interested in their offer at €12 a month for unlimited calls and 250 mb of internet. If you are prepared to pay €15 a month then you can have 1 gigabit of internet a month.
As an alternative to a separate phone contact you might wish to consider combining a mobile phone contract with your home internet contract.
The main internet provided Orange offers a package of this kind, called 'Open', costing €37 a month, which also includes a fixed telephone line. There is a €3 per month rental charge for the internet router, and the contract is for a minimum of 12 months.
Mobile phone calls and messages are limited to 1 hour per month, plus three mobile or fixed numberS for an unlimited period each month. It comes with 50 mb of internet access from your phone.
There are a number of other 'Open' options offering more, but for a higher monthly charge.