She is Imke Strampe, works for German regulator BNetzA, and spent three months at Arcep, in Paris. She is Léa Ployaert, the head of Arcep’s Legal Affairs unit, and spent three weeks at BNetzA, in Bonn. Over the course of this “exchange programme,” the first of its kind for Arcep with a fellow European regulator, both worked on the digital environmental footprint. The goal: to foster a system of experience sharing that can result in more effective regulation for both authorities. Here, they share some of the things that surprised them.
Imke: “Compared to BNetzA, almost everything at Arcep is different: it is much smaller – BNetzA has a staff of around 3,000 people - and, unlike BnetzA, Arcep does not regulate energy and transport markets. The Arcep staff is younger, and the proportion of economists and lawyers is very different: Arcep has a smaller percentage of lawyers. The Executive Board to which the teams present their work does not exist at BNetzA. Arcep’s data-driven and map-based approaches to regulation interested me a great deal, as they increase transparency and quality-based competition between operators. Lastly, Arcep is far more advanced than BnetzA in tackling environmental issues.”
Léa: “I was used to a structure built around the Executive Board and departments, like what we have at Arcep. But BnetzA is made up of special units and ruling chambers responsible for adopting decisions (“BeschlussKammer”). There are clear divisions between the markets, involving dedicated regulations. Where fibre is intended to become the infrastructure of reference in France, it has an only marginal presence in Germany where it is deployed by local players. The German market remains dominated by copper and cable, so much so that discussions over switching off the legacy network, which are already well underway in France, are still in the very early stages in Germany.”
In comparing their experiences, Imke and Léa also identified strong overlaps between their institutions. One prime example, BNetzA and Arcep have both put digital – and especially working on regulating gatekeeper platforms as part of the DMA – on their agenda
Seeking to draw on users’ experience, on 9 and 14 March, Arcep invited representatives of local authorities and consumer associations to two workshops to take stock of their needs, expectations and suggestions for the new version of the map-based site for comparing mobile operators’ coverage and quality of service, “My mobile network” (“Mon Réseau Mobile”).
These workshops proved to be a time of extremely constructive dialogue. Participants stressed their attachment to this tool, while also underscoring that the site could be more informative and the data provided should more accurately reflect the reality in the field. These two major demands will guide the design of the future version of the site.
Asked to prioritise their wishlist for the future “Mon Réseau Mobile” interface, participants ranked quality of service number one. Up next: testing the first interface mock-ups with users, gathering their feedback, and making adjustments accordingly. Arcep would like to thank all of those involved in this process of improving its services.
More and more attention is being paid across Europe to digital’s ecological transition. This includes the Body of European regulators, BEREC, which created a “Sustainability” working group in 2020 that brings together close to a hundred experts from national regulatory authorities and the European Commission, including some 20 writers and editors. Its goal: to work on digital’s contribution to the European Green Deal, and on reducing the sector’s carbon footprint.
A new topic for BEREC, the environment is also on several regulators’ national agenda, including ComReg (Ireland) and Traficom (Finland). Arcep is currently one of the rare authorities invested with regulatory powers in this area, and plays a leading role in this group co-chaired by Sandrine Elmi Hersi of Arcep’s European and International Affairs department, and Kateřina Děkanovská, of the Czech Telecommunications Office (CTU). The two co-chairs coordinate BEREC’s work on this issue, anticipate emerging topics, and participate in official events. They also chair the expert group meetings devoted to preparing BEREC decisions on these matters.
The teams in Arcep’s different departments also contribute actively to the Sustainability group’s output: reports, workshops, dialogue with stakeholders. The role played by experts and writers/editors is vital to conveying Arcep’s expertise in this area. A four-week public consultation on BEREC’s first report on the digital carbon footprint is scheduled to begin in March.
When, on 5 March 1998, ART launched its website, it was an obvious move: stakeholders needed to be informed of its decisions as quickly as possible. But it was also born of necessity: it was the early days of opening the market up to competition, and ART’s decisions frequently came under fire. It proved vital to make them enforceable and to strengthen their legal certainty. Queried about the Authority’s ability to publish its decisions before the Journal officiel, the Secretariat-General to the Government (SGG) agreed. And it was the Director-General himself at the time, Pierre Alain-Jeanneney, who signed the publication slips of the decisions to be posted online.
Because what could be more efficient than a website to meet these new communication challenges? Except that, back in 1998, the internet was still only nascent… ART had only a single computer on each floor connected to the Web, so only one workstation for around 30 people. The decisions to be posted online travelled to the hosting company by courier on floppy disks! As for press releases, they were sent by fax after the market closed, as required for a publicly traded sector…
Back then, connecting to the internet happened over a 56 k modem that sounded like it was heading to the moon (Listen to the modem!). Web pages, and especially photos, took hours to load, we discovered downloading on Napster, the main search engine was called Lycos and messaging was via Caramail. But despite the trials and tribulations, the ART website made it to the world wide web, and soon generated mailing lists, forums, then blogs and live chats. A pioneer site, it was the first external communication tool launched by ART, a channel so crucial that, for years, its URL would be part of the Authority’s logo.
Arcep and Internet Society France created a dedicated IPv6 task force (join it!) that is open to all internet ecosystem stakeholders (operators, web hosting companies, businesses, public sector entities, etc.) Launched in November 2019, it now has more than 120 members and meets twice a year. Its goal is to accelerate the transition to IPv6 by giving participants a forum for tackling specific problems and sharing best practices. The priority courses of action are decided together by task force members.
This has helped France make real strides in the rate of IPv6 adoption, boosting it from 10th to 6th place worldwide today. But there is still a long way to go, as revealed in the latest Barometer of the transition to IPv6. Always in a spirit of co-construction, Arcep and the task force are committed to continuing to educate stakeholders. After the publication of a first handbook, “Businesses: why switch to IPv6?” – which includes tips and testimonials from EDF, Olympique Lyonnais, Schneider Electric and managed services provider, Digdeo – the task force is publishing its second handbook: ”A business’s guide to the IPv6 transition”. Aimed at companies’ in-house IT experts who are in charge managing the transition to IPv6, it is designed to help guide them through the process.
While most of them are still being held online, the European and international meetings that Arcep attends are gradually going back to taking place “in the flesh” – two cases in point being the recent visit to rue Gerty Archimède of a delegation from Senegalese regular ARTP, led by its Director-General, and the latest BEREC meeting in Croatia.
In addition to daily discussions with its European and international counterparts, Arcep attends several dozen meetings every year. These are opportunities for the “Europe and International Affairs” department (DEI) to champion the positions that have been crafted in concert with all the other Arcep departments and the Executive Board. Whether bilateral or multilateral, these meetings provide valuable fuel for the Authority’s internal discussion and inform the hands-on task of national regulation. This is especially true within Fratel, the network of French-speaking telecoms regulators, the OECD, and within BEREC and ERGP which bring together, respectively, European telecoms and postal regulators.
Physical meetings make it easier to take certain collective work to the next level, and let flow informal and impromptu discussions which are vital to any fruitful dialogue. This is how the DEI is able to gain a better understanding of upcoming issues in other countries and on the European and international stage. This constant involvement ultimately enables Arcep to contribute to building tomorrow’s regulatory frameworks.
The stage that precedes frequency assignment is planning. Arcep sets the type of services (mobile networks, wireless services, satellite links, etc.) that are permitted to use the bands it is responsible for assigning, in concert with the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) and the other bodies tasked with frequency assignments. It is at this stage that the technical terms and conditions for using these frequencies are established: maximum transmit power, licensing scheme, etc. This work is done by Arcep’s “Frequencies” team – a group of five experts – in the months leading up to 5G frequency awards.
Changes in the ways that 5G bands are used required the “release” of the 3.5 GHz band: pre-existing systems had to migrate to other frequency bands or other systems. Arcep coordinated the parties involved in switching over these systems. A highly technical task that consisted of transferring the same service to other frequency bands which, in some cases, required considerable technological adjustments.
It is also crucial to ensure coexistence with existing systems in adjacent frequency bands, to prevent interference. A raft of simulations and difficult calculations are thus required to install coexistence mechanisms, and impose them on frequency licence-holders.
Lastly, to enable operators to successfully adopt 5G and takes measures under real life circumstances, Arcep’s Frequency team authorised 5G trials prior to the assignments. Similar frequency planning and release work is currently underway for the 26 GHz band.
How did the Covid-19 crisis affect digital device ownership in France? Which digital uses increased the most during the crisis? What levers can be put into place to ensure more sustainable smartphone use? These are just some of the new questions tackled in the 2021 edition of the Digital Market Barometer, published on 1 July and which every year (except in 2020 due to the pandemic) measures information and communication technology adoption in French society.
For 18 years now, Arcep and the National Economic Council (CGE) have worked together to quantify the presence and impact of digital technology across the country. Joined by the National Agency for Territorial Cohesion (ANCT) in 2016, this partnership expanded to include measuring digital hardware ownership, examining digital behaviours and their environmental impact, assessing how much freedom users have in the use of their mobile devices, detecting access inequalities and power imbalances, and anticipating core trends. All of which help to inform public policies to foster ubiquitous appropriation of digital technology.
The Covid-19 crisis created a real challenge on the methodological front. The survey could not be conducted through face-to-face interviews as it had in the past, but had to take place online and over the phone, which nevertheless made it possible to obtain an equally rich survey, while continuing to query the most digitally disenfranchised.
Every year Arcep conducts field measurement campaigns, under real life conditions and in a comparable fashion for every operator, to be able to ascertain the quality of the most widely used mobile services. Detailed on monreseaumobile.arcep.fr, the findings of these measurements are an integral part of data-driven regulation, and serve to inform users on which operator provides the best quality of service in any given location, and so to create an incentive for operators to improve performances on their network.
Arcep’s dynamic duo in charge of conducting these campaigns defines the appropriate test protocol, in a wide variety of locations – more or less densely populated residential areas, tourist destinations, trains, cars, metros, etc. – and seeks to reflect the actual user experience as closely as possible. It must also maintain a dialogue with operators and service providers who are experts in QoS testing, for whom company image is vital. So assume the role of arbiter, highlighting the interplay of market forces, where everyone has their own position.
In 2021, the 21st edition of the campaign in Metropolitan France will be expanded to include 5G services, which raises a whole series of fascinating questions: what actual speeds (i.e. no longer theoretical) will 5G deliver? What does it offer that 4G does not? Which operator has best mastered the technology? The QoS adventure in France’s overseas markets is a more recent one, as 2021 will mark the 4th outing for measurement campaigns. Because each overseas territory is unique, those carrying out the QoS tests will need to travel by quad, pirogue and helicopter to measure remote or very steep hillside locations. Added to which, timing is crucial, as testers need to avoid the hurricane seasons which affect the quality of the mobile networks being measured.
On 8 April 2021, Arcep launched the complete version of Ma connexion internet website, after a year of ongoing beta testing. This reference tool cum search engine provides – in map form – fully detailed information on the connection speeds that operators provide at any given address, for every fixed internet technology, as well as on fibre deployments at that location.
The development of these maps began in 2018, and has required considerable work due to the volume and diversity of the data to be integrated, cross-referenced and displayed. A highly complex task as it requires compiling single, consolidated repository of homes and buildings, which is tailored to the needs of network mapping. Based entirely on open source technologies, the site also poses the technical challenge of seamlessly displaying highly localised information on connection speeds available at a single address, on a map. These maps covering “all technologies” come to complete existing “fibre” maps. Continually improved since they were first made available online in 2017, in no small part thanks to contributions from expert users who have joined Arcep’s “keeping the bonnet open” approach, these maps have proven hugely popular, already attracting close to 4 million visitors as of mid-April.
Fifteen Arcepians in all are responsible for the success of this project, each contributing their own set of skills and expertise – telecom, IT, geomatics, market management, data analysis. They have received support from IT companies to help develop the site and its data processing tools, and from an active community of (re) users of the maps and the data available as open datasets. The biggest challenge this year will be to accelerate the pace of data production to be able to display more recent information.
A beacon that lights the way, indicates the right path to take and sends out storm warnings! Ensuring the legal certainty of the decisions made by the regulator, and providing its legal defence in disputes over its decisions is not always smooth sailing. But it is the daily reality of Arcep’s legal department, an ever-present and committed team of 16 people, including two interns, which is structured into two units: one in charge of mobile and scarce resource allocation matters, and the other of fixed networks, the postal sector and print media distribution.
Establishing the decisions to make in concert with the Authority’s departments, drafting briefs and statements of defence, scouring legal texts and precedents, dissecting Parliamentary debates to interpret the Law, which may not have foreseen every eventuality… … Such is the rewarding and inspiring day-to-day of an Arcep counsel (jurists specialised largely in public law, or former lawyers). One of the key tasks is to verify Arcep’s competencies before adopting a decision, to check the right procedure to follow and to examine whether the measures planned by the Authority are proportionate with the regulatory objectives. Given the number of topics and decisions adopted by the Authority – close 1,600 in 2020 alone – flexibility and versatility are the team’s bywords.
There is also an important procedural aspect to handling this range of activities. As in any jurisdiction, a clerk (which, in this case, is a Ms clerk), ensures the regularity of the procedures and submits the defence’s filings in the case of a dispute. This is because the legal department represents itself on decisions that Arcep has taken, when coming before administrative courts which (almost without exception) involves drafting all of the statements of defence. 2020 was an especially busy year for disputes: health and environmental concerns, raised by 5G frequency awards, accounted for a large percentage of the cases handled by the team.
Charlotte Gauthier-Son, Rita Perez and Jean Cattan make up the Arcep chair’s dream team. A trio that is always on the ball, and ready to make sure every day is as full as possible and goes by without a hitch (as much as is humanly possible, at least ;-).
The upshot? A schedule of military precision, some thousand dossiers compiled to ensure a presence in the field 24/7, in France, in Europe and internationally, for hundreds of interlocutors from across the spectrum, a dozen parliamentary hearings a year, countless exchanges of every kind, and information, speeches, articles, keynotes galore. All dedicated to the set of issues that Arcep is interested in, from telecoms to postal affairs and print media, by way of opening up to the digital commons.
Working for the Chairman means having the opportunity to work for the whole of Arcep. It means having a bird’s eye view of everything it is doing, and especially of being able to work closely with every one of its teams. “Assisting Sébastien Soriano has been the chance to work for someone whose has brought their strategic vision to life in a rigorous, innovative, open and collaborative way over the past six years. A chance to be at the heart of a tremendous shared dedication.” As his term nears its close, the Chairman’s team, and everyone at Arcep extends their warm and sincere thanks, and wishes him the very best!
As in-person meetings and travel are impossible these days, but continuing to connect more vital than ever before, how to continue to communicate with local players, keep them informed and discuss local concerns as they arise? The public health crisis forced Arcep’s Smart Territories Unit (UTC) – a cross-agency unit made up of four people who are in charge of managing the relationship between local authorities and Arcep – to reinvent how it operates.
Challenge number one: how to maintain Smart Territories events, using new formats. The live chat with Arcep Chair, Sébastien Soriano, in April 2020 inaugurated online meetings that brought together local authorities from across the whole of France, thanks to digital technology. Since then, no fewer than five Technical workshops have been held, in the form of webinars, giving participants the ability to have the floor, share written questions and trade experiences. The territories answered the call!
Arcep Executive Board members have also been busy: holding a series of videoconferences and continuing their dialogue with local authorities.
UTC is also stepping up its day-to-day interactions with local interlocutors, and has increased their number. Meanwhile, the team continues to work closely with a great many local authority associations. All fuel for the ongoing dialogue to galvanise regional digital development.
From 29 September to 1 October 2020, Arcep held an auction to award licences to use the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz band. For the first time in France’s history of spectrum awards, the auction was held virtually.
In 2015, auctions for the 700 MHz band were based on the use of paper bids and so required that the bidders be physically present in Arcep’s premises.
This time, however, bidders were able to take part in the auction from wherever they wished. They were required to complete a request form online, indicating how many blocks of 10 MHz they wanted at the price set by Arcep (the maximum number of blocks per buyer was five). Bidders then signed and transmitted the form electronically to the Arcep team.
Over on Arcep’s side, a team of “managers” gathered in a “control room”. Their job: to upload the request forms, keep candidates informed, analyse the amount of spectrum requested…
During the months preceding the auction, Arcep’s teams performed more than 10 simulations to test the tools and fine tune the procedures. This created the ability to make adjustments to take the public health crisis into account (e.g. social distancing in the control room).
Thanks to all of this preparatory work, the perfectly tuned remote auction took place over three days without a hitch!
In 2015, Arcep conducted a strategic review of its activities, to be able to more effectively tackle the challenges posed by the digital revolution. Arcep undertook a deep overhaul, a 360° rethink, using a collaborative approach driven by its teams – baptised “OLAF” (for “Organisation libérée pour l’Arcep du futur”). Arcep thereby become a forward-looking “liberated organisation,” adopting pro-innovation values: trust, relaxed control, transparency and freedom of proposal.
To underpin these changes, the HR team set about examining how to refresh human resources. And this with a dual objective: to save everyone time by increasing efficiency, so that everyone can concentrate on the most useful activities, and to develop the employee experience, in other words to improve and enrich Arcep staff members’ career path and life in the workplace, to attract, keep and motivate in-house talents.
Working in concert with the communications team, these aspects of the HR philosophy are outlined on a dedicated page on the Arcep website, on Profil Public and LinkedIn. To foster a culture of “always learning” that is vital to rapidly building skills and knowledge, Arcep also installed an internal training platform developed by the startup, Skillup.
As these values and new ways of working have taken root, the teams have proven highly adaptable in carrying out their assignments while working remotely, due to the public health crisis. This post-summer holiday period has handed HR a dual challenge: achieving the right balance to maintain social ties while ensuring the widespread adoption and enforcement of preventive measures, to guarantee a safe and healthy working environment for everyone.
For 450 million European citizens, net neutrality is protected by Europe’s Open Internet Regulation. In France, it is Arcep that is responsible for enforcing this regulation, and for publishing an annual account of the actions it has taken in support of net neutrality, which is the basis for the report on the State of the Internet in France. The 2020 edition of this report provides readers with keys to understanding how the internet works, by detailing how its main components evolved over the course of 2019. It also provides a status report on:
- Co-construction efforts to improve internet quality of service measurement;
- Close monitoring of the data interconnection market;
- The announced exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, making the transition to IPv6 all the more imperative;
- How devices and platforms influence the internet’s openness;
- Incorporating digital tech’s environmental impact into regulation.
It is by carefully dissecting the internet’s complex technical chains that Arcep’s teams are able to ensure the network runs smoothly. To analyse and monitor the practices being employed in these different components, it queries the internet’s players in France on a regular basis, covering the various links in the access chain (the report includes some 20 testimonials from market stakeholders). It also relies on an extensive set of tools: the Wehe app to detect possible net neutrality violations, the “Access ID card” API to gain a more detailed understanding of the environment in which users are performing quality tests, the IPv6 task force, co-chaired with Internet Society France, the “Achieving digital sustainability” collaboration platform, and the future Green Barometer. The goal: to ensure that the internet continues to grow and develop, as a common good, where users are the ultimate arbiter.
The 2020 edition also answers the questions that arose during the lockdown, during which market players’ and users’ shared sense of responsibility created a situation where as many people as possible were able to continue to have access to high quality networks. An ongoing mobilisation that Arcep salutes in its 2020 edition.
That great jumble of jumpers and cables that look like so many octopi spilling out of neighbourhood cabinets… Become a staple of social media postings, photos of these tangled messes caught Arcep’s attention some time ago, as they can lead to network operation issues and affect subscribers’ service. Arcep has also been solicited by several local authorities who are concerned about a frequent state of disarray.
Optical fibre networks will be operational for several decades to come. To ensure they continue to run smoothly, in early 2019 Arcep created an “Operations” working group – whose members include operators and Arcep staff – tasked with solving this type of problem. “Service calls to neighbourhood cabinets are a shared affair. The cabinets belong to infrastructure operators, but commercial operators also have access to them for installations and maintenance via sub-contractors” explains Sébastien Soriano, in the Gazette des communes. “Under the current system, some may begin to shirk their responsibility if we’re not careful.” To prevent this from happening, the Operations working group has been meeting every six weeks for a year now. It has made it possible to confirm that it is the infrastructure operator’s responsibility to ensure the network’s integrity. It must guarantee the quality of the work performed by its sub-contracting commercial operators.
To move forward on this issue, infrastructure operators working within InfraNum drafted a first set of proposals, which were discussed multilaterally with all of the operators. The latter are testing new street cabinets and new ways to organise themselves to facilitate the technicians’ work. “An escalation mechanism could include excluding the sub-contractor – through an official notification procedure – if their work is not up to par,” the Arcep Chair also said. This work has enabled stakeholders to establish a roadmap that was finalised in early April, after discussions with local authorities. It will result in operational, technical and contractual changes in the short term, and identifies the additional work that needs to be done before the end of the year. Arcep will continue to keep a close eye on the situation as it evolves, and to maintain a dialogue with stakeholders.
Already engaged in a liberated organisation approach to its daily operations, and thanks to the mobilisation of all of its teams, Arcep was able to adapt swiftly to the singularity of the current situation and continue to carry out its essential tasks remotely.
The recent move to new offices provided an opportunity to develop teleworking and deploy new IT tools. This in turn made it easier for everyone move quite quickly over to teleworking, while support services, starting with IT, helped smooth the way to scaling up the mechanism. E-learning training on teleworking during the health crisis was made available to any staff member who requested it.
For Arcep, this unprecedented situation has been an opportunity to step up the collective adoption of new working methods. A veritable “learning community” system was put into place to structure the Authority’s ability to continue its day-to-day activities, but also to nourish ties and solidarity between staff members.
Arcep thus deployed all of the conditions needed to protect the health of its 170 staff members. The tools put into place by France’s Inter-departmental Directorate of Digital Affairs (DINUM) – including Tchap, OSMOSE, the Government webconferencing service – also lend vital support during these times. The only change requested from the ecosystem in its interactions with Arcep is that any correspondence sent by the post requires a duplicate to be sent systematically by e-mail!
Since October 2019, Arcep has been responsible for regulating bulk print media distribution. Supporting the sector’s modernisation, drafting a mission statement, opinions on the technical, pricing and contractual terms and conditions governing distributor services, monitoring negotiations over sorting rules… a host of tasks lie ahead for Arcep departments, and require vast legal, economic and technical expertise. Three departments are thus mobilised to build new teams and assume these new responsibilities: the Internet, media, postal and users department (Print media distribution unit), the Economy, markets and digital affairs department (Cost and tariffs for postal, press and audiovisual unit) and, finally, the Legal affairs department (Infrastructure and open networks unit). This mobilisation aims to make readers’ interests the centrepiece of every action, ensuring they have easy, nationwide access to a high quality and diversified print media.
Do the frequencies used by 5G mobile phones and equipment threaten to interfere with weather service’s data collection via satellite? Some meteorologists are worked they will. And this gets to the very heart of the World Radiocommunication Conference’s (WRC) role, which is to harmonise the frequencies used by new technologies worldwide, and to prevent interference with other uses. A dialogue that culminates every three or four years in a marathon, multi-week negotiation, where nobody leaves until the right compromises have been reached!
Frequencies know no borders, neither between countries nor applications. Identifying additional spectrum for 5G in high frequency bands (above 24 GHz) was thus one of the core topics at the latest WRC, which concluded in Egypt on 22 November. The discussion between the 3,300 delegates from the 165 Member countries represented made it possible to identify 15 GHz of additional spectrum for 5G, around the 26 GHz, 40 GHz and 66 GHz bands. An issue that was concluded in the very final hours of the conference, after heated debates over coexistence between 5G services and satellite weather services that use adjacent bands (between 23.6 and 24 GHz). A dispute that was settled through an unprecedented two-stage approach: protection criteria will apply immediately to enable rapid 5G rollouts in the 26 GHz band. A second stage, in 2027, will introduce criteria that offer weather services even stricter protection. Not as strict as the weather services initially hoped, they will be monitoring this compromise very closely.
The programme for the next WRC, scheduled for 2023, will include the introduction of new frequencies for 5G. So another negotiation on the horizon, for which preparations have already begun… and will conclude four years from now!
The Post n° 33 - November 2019
One of the regulator’s mandates, for the benefit of competition and consumers, is to monitor a certain number of operators’ prices. How are these costs structured? How are prices established, and changed over time? Having a good understanding of the inner workings of these calculations is vital to the regulator’s ability to make informed decisions.
Arcep’s “costs and prices” team employs two main tools to this end:
• “Regulatory accounting”: standardised cost breakdowns, which provide the foundation for an objective dialogue with operators on the costs they assume.
• Cost and pricing models, to understand an operator’s generic costs, or to model an economic space between two products, or to build a price based on a cost history… from a simple spreadsheet to a code model working on geographical data for the whole of France, every degree of complexity is involved!
These tools are designed by the team, working in concert with market players, but Arcep’s departments are also required to examine those produced by operators. All of the networks regulated by Arcep are thus scrutinised: copper network, fibre network, but also the postal network and future 5G networks. Next to be added to the work programme: the print media distribution network, resulting from the newfound responsibility assigned to Arcep last month.
The Post n° 32 - October 2019
You probably know what the person sitting next to you in the office is working on. But what about those working across the hall, or one floor up? To create a steady flow of dialogue, in mid-September Arcep launched “la Fabrique RéSo” (The Regulation and Solutions network factory) – a workshop that is open to all members of staff, and meant to showcase innovative in-house projects and initiatives that are helping to drive the regulatory process forward. The idea is to allow any staff member to identify solutions that have been developed by other teams, and to apply them to their own area of work, but also to tap into the collective intelligence to test out new ideas. The latest round of brainstorming will focus on regulation, innovation and data. Two innovative projects were presented at the first workshop held in mid-September: the process for developing an open source Chrome extension for managing GDPR cookies, and the pathway that made it possible, working in tandem with students, to go from a complex database to an educational consumer market app.
People who are deaf or hearing impaired are now able to exercise their right to express themselves in sign language, to report any issues encountered with their fixed, mobile, internet or postal operator. Responsible for overseeing the enforcement of telephone service accessibility obligations, notably collecting user reports on these services, this summer Arcep launched a website that enables them to file video reports in French sign language (LSF) or cued speech. The mini site explains, in French sign language and cued speech, Arcep’s role, how these reports help Arcep in its actions, and how the site works. These reports will add to those collected through "J’alerte Arcep".
Creating “J’alerte Arcep in LSF-cued speech” involved several Arcep units devoted to users, IT, communication, as well as a staff member who is knowledgeable in French sign language. The videos on the site were produced with the help of two deaf translators. When faced with the task of understanding an unknown language, Arcep’s teams embraced the challenge with a passion. “We’re at the nub of the difficulty of communicating between deaf and hearing people. There is no online tool for easily translating or understanding content in French sign language, unlike with other languages we are more used to coming in contact with!” Equally interesting is French sign language’s long and somewhat rocky history: born in the 18th century with the Abbott Charles Michel de Épée, is was banned from being taught in 1880, then allowed back in schools in… 1991!
Architecture, operation, usage… telecoms networks will undergo a major transformation in the coming years. What will this entail? How will this affect the regulator’s task? To get a jump on these questions, several months back we began to investigate this topic. Every year, we produce forward-looking briefs on what is a very vast subject: emerging uses, connectivity issues, network agility, spectrum management and cross-cutting developments. We have already published two briefs, on the topics of: connected cars and network virtualisation.
Every Arcep department specialised in fixed and mobile networks, and in the digital economy are involved. To round out this investigation, and before producing these briefs, we talk to the ecosystem’s specialists: operators, equipment suppliers, service providers and local authorities are all consulted. And to obtain a 360° view of our topics, we have created a Scientific Board of 10 prominent academics, entrepreneurs and industry players, covering a wide range of expertise.
We are committed to making this a “living” dialogue, and invite anyone who is interested to explore these analyses and to send their contributions to: reseaux-du-futur[a]arcep.fr.
Measuring quality of service on fixed networks is a particularly complex affair. It is virtually impossible for speed tests to know with absolute certainty which access technology (copper, cable, fibre, etc.) is being used to run he test. To resolve this major issue, just over a year ago Arcep began a vast initiative with the entire ecosystem. A global first!
Players involved in testing, operators, researchers… some 20 stakeholders in all came together under the aegis of Arcep. After several dozen meetings, this co-construction approach made it possible to reach a consensus on introducing an Application Programming Interface (API) that operators would implement directly in their boxes, and be accessible to testing tools that comply with ’s code of conduct (in French).
This API is not in itself a measurement tool, but rather would make it possible to transmit the information that makes up the connection’s “access ID card”– such as access technology, the user’s advertised speed, Wi-Fi quality, etc. – to third-party tools.
Development on this solution will begin in 2020. The project will kick off with the publication of an Arcep decision, whose draft has been published for public consultation.
Is the building operator given a period of exclusivity during which it is the only Internet Access Provider? (No). Does every operator have to install their own network in every building (No). Do fibre operators need to have access to the common areas on the buildings’ ground floor? (In very high-density areas: yes. Elsewhere: no).
The slew of questions that Arcep received through its Twitter account revealed a tremendous need for clarification. And, on the other side of the equation, operators have shared with Arcep the problems they are having in accessing shared access points to be able to connect to customer premises.
To address these needs, Arcep has just published a leaflet on each party’s rights and obligations in France’s very high-density areas: property owners, condominium managers, building operators and commercial operators. The devil is in the detail… and both users’ freedom of choice and freedom of competition are at stake. Illustrating the three stages of fibre’s deployment to a building, a table summarising each stakeholder’s rights and duties and “true/false” answers to frequently asked questions, this leaflet is designed to clarify misconceptions and create more fluid relationships between stakeholders.
J’alerte l’Arcep, cartefibre.arcep.fr, monreseaumobile… Arcep already utilises and publishes a sizeable volume of data. To take data management to the next level, Arcep launched its “Datareg” challenge a few months back, as part of the French Government’s Etalab “Entrepreneurs d’intérêt général/Public interest entrepreneurs” programme.
- What is a Public interest entrepreneur?
We are both Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists – a highly specialised field, and one found rarely in the halls of the public sector. Being a Public interest entrepreneur means lending our expertise to an administration, to help it tackle the challenges involved in processing its public data.
- What is Arcep’s “Datareg” challenge?
The aim is to develop tools that will enable the centralisation, circulation, publication and easy cross-referencing of Arcep data. The goal: to boost performance and increase the amount of data made available to the general public. To this end, we will be developing a simple and efficient data warehouse. We also want to create an API interface to make our open data fully useable, beyond offering just simple, downloadable .csv files.
We are thrilled to be lending our geographic data exploration and visualisation skills to the challenge. We’ve got an exciting ten months of work ahead of us!
The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is one of the largest annual trade shows devoted to new technologies. We were among the more than 182,000 people to wander its aisles over the five days, where some 4,000 companies were showcasing their latest innovations.
Our goal: to meet with companies and start-ups with insight into the future of communications, to be able to anticipate future network requirements.
We discovered two rather different universes during this first ever visit to CES.
First was the Convention Center, which housed the beta versions of high tech products due to be launched in the coming months by the industry’s titans. Among other things, we witnessed two vertical integration races that are currently playing out: the first between Google and Amazon who are working to impose their ecosystems by making their voice assistants compatible with as many products as possible. And the second with Qualcomm which is integrating its chips into a slew of products via different partnerships (notably 5G-related).
The other universe was Eureka Park which provided a venue for start-ups come to test out their novel concepts. It is a much more dialogue-friendly location, and we were able to chat with a host of start-ups about the connectivity they will need for their products to make it into the European market… and carry them over to the Convention Center in the next couple of years (we’ve posted a list of some our favourite start-ups on Facebook).
If we had to sum up CES 2019 in just five points:
- An impressive drive from the world’s biggest chipset manufacturer, which is forging itself a solid foothold in mmWave band 5G, edge computing and communications for cars;
- Massive Chinese presence in all areas;
- Confirmation of South Korean manufacturers’ power in audiovisual media and smartphones;
- Autonomous vehicles being used for demonstrations by a host of players;
- The compulsive urge to insert electronics everywhere, even in places where it doesn’t really make sense.
“Internet of Trust”. This was the central theme of the 13th Internet Governance Forum hosted by Unesco, from 12 to 14 November, with special guest António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The entire global internet ecosystem came together in Paris for three days: more than 3,000 people from 143 countries took part in 71 roundtables.
Arcep was an official partner to the event. Members of several departments were on hand to help raise awareness on some of the issues that are central areas of focus for Arcep: net neutrality, 5G, devices and open internet access, IPv6. To this end, Arcep:
- Hosted and/or participated in several roundtables, notably with telecoms regulators from India and Canada, “Access Now”, an international not-for-profit organisation working to protect a free and open internet, and the Mozilla Foundation. All of our (five) talks are available on our website. The roundtable titled “5G vs. net neutrality: friends or foes” is available online on the Forum’s YouTube channel.
- Had a stand in the “IGF Village” where it ran demonstrations of the Wehe app which is capable of detecting whether internet streams are being throttled;
- and covered its presence at the Forum on social media using the hashtag #ArcepXIGF which enjoyed a record audience on Twitter.
The “Paris Messages” were published by way of a conclusion to the event. Designed to be non-binding principles, they summarise the Forum’s main messages.
Last month, Arcep updated its 5G battle plan for France. The Authority is engaged in multiple and wide-ranging actions to bring this plan to completion. And virtually every single department is mobilised.
Here is a little snapshot of the Arcep teams involved in making 5G a reality, mere months from now:
- the “Mobile and innovation” department. It teams have been enabling and supporting 5G trials nationwide for close to a year. They also prepared the public consultation launched in October on the procedures and conditions for the frequency allocations that will be conducted in 2019;
- the “Fibre, infrastructures and territories” department is also devoted to the issue since fibre will play a key role as the infrastructure undergirding 5G rollouts;
- the “Europe and international” department has an active hand in the work being done by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), which has made 5G one of its priorities for 2019;
- this past summer, Arcep began a new round of investigation to anticipate the networks of the future, and so adapt its job of regulator accordingly. This forward-looking work will map out all of the expected network evolutions and revolutions over the next five to ten years: increasingly agile networks, new spectrum management paradigms… with 5G front and centre. The “Economics, markets and digital” department, and Arcep as a whole, set up a Scientific Committee (Find out more about the scientific committee) to help perform this work.
On 19 November, Arcep will be moving to a new neighbourhood, and new offices in Paris’s 12th arrondissement. All of Arcep’s Secretariat General teams have been working for months to ensure this giant move goes smoothly.
- Finding the right place, among the 33 locations chosen, 20 buildings visited, 6 buildings shortlisted, a lease to negotiate, compliance with the financial and surface-area criteria set by the State Property Management Department;
- Office planning in a new building, which required coming up with the optimum configuration for open and collaborative work spaces, and a liberated government organisation;
- But also… calls to tender held in accordance with the rules of public tenders, dozens of assessment and dozens of monitoring and evaluation tables, workshops, over 400 boxes of archives, very funny moments, some hair pulling, a final stretch, four weeks before D-Day for the 170 Arcepians who, we hope, will feel right at home in no time!
On 6 September, Arcep launched its new website, which was designed and developed in tandem with agencies, Spintank and Gaya. Our aim was to provide rapid proof that the new directions Arcep is taking include its web presence. Mission accomplished. We hope to have laid down a solid foundation: a site with a responsive design on both computers and mobiles, easier and more intuitive browsing, an IPv6 site to lead by example, equipped with a search engine, more accessible to audiences that are not necessarily familiar with Arcep (members of the public, start-ups, SMEs)…
The tremendous involvement of the entire Communications and Partnerships Department helped achieve painstaking work that will continue to pay dividends. Launch day felt like being a child on Christmas morning, giddily opening up your present… despite knowing that dozens of tests still need to be run, URLs rerouted, 404 errors tracked, etc.
Work on the new site has only just begun. All of the content from the old site (which will remain accessible at archive.arcep.fr until the end of 2018) still needs to be migrated to its new home.
In spring 2018, the Government solicited Arcep to examine the legally binding commitments proposed by Orange and SFR, for deploying fibre to the home (FttH) networks in more sparsely populated areas covered by private initiative (those parts of the country where the Government has issued a call for investment letters of intent, called “zones AMII” in French).
The areas for which operators have made their commitments cover more than 3,600 municipalities, corresponding to around 13.6 million premises (homes and businesses):
- Orange is proposing to cover 100% of the premises in the areas targeted by its commitments by 2022, or 2,978 municipalities representing around 11.10 million premises.
- SFR is proposing to cover 92% of the premises in the areas targeted by its commitments by the end of 2020, or 641 municipalities representing around 2.5 million premises, with the remainder able to be “passed on request”.
What is involved in Arcep’s close examination of these commitments?
The role of Arcep’s “Optical Fibre” Unit was to ensure that the operators’ proposed commitments were solid and could be properly verified by the Authority over time.
The first goal was to ensure that these proposed commitments were concrete enough that Arcep could then fulfil its supervisory role, if they were accepted by the Minister.
The team’s work consisted of checking that the proposed commitments could be assessed on a regular basis using precise (and technical!) rollout indicators. After a constructive dialogue that led to new proposals from Orange and SFR, Arcep was able to issue two favourable opinions in mid-June 2018. Arcep’s conclusion: these new proposed commitments complete one another, and are now in line with a policy of achieving consistency between shared networks. It nevertheless underscored the considerable acceleration in the pace of rollouts that would be required to meet these commitments.
The Government then announced that it planned to accept these opinions. Once the orders are published, Arcep will be responsible for ensuring the operators’ compliance, within the set timeframe. The Authority will publish regular updates on the rollouts’ progress, though its cartefibre.arcep.fr map tool, in addition to monitoring local applications of the commitments, which will give the regions more clarity.
Thanks to Europe’s “Roam like at home” regulation, for a year now, Europeans have been able to use their mobile phone when travelling in the EU in the same way they do at home. Scrambling to find Wi-Fi access, putting a phone call off until later or going without texting to avoid being overcharged is now a thing of the past!
Before this regulation came into effect, Arcep was actively involved in the extensive work done to prepare for the end of roaming in Europe, at both the European level (within BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) and at the national level, by supporting French operators and keeping them informed.
But Arcep’s work has not stopped there! Over the past year, Arcep has been supervising operators’ compliance with these new provisions, and working to ensure that every mobile product in France is compatible with the new regulatory framework. The result: at Arcep’s request, operators have removed inaccuracies in their price schedules, some mobile plans have been adjusted, and the messages operators automatically send to customers when they arrive in another country have been changed.
All done in a way which has been relatively transparent for users. Operators have met their newfound obligations, thanks to an ongoing dialogue with Arcep.