Paris, 30th January 2012
On 16th January 2012, the newspaper "Le Figaro" published an article stating that Free Mobile may not be in compliance with its coverage obligations, and followed up with the headline in its 28th and 29th January editions: "Battle of wills between Besson and ARCEP".
ARCEP would like to offer a reminder of the facts and the order in which they occurred.
In a meeting on Thursday, 26th January - even though the Authority had received no complaints from any operator nor any request from the Government, and none of the events reported in the media was backed by the slightest persuasive element - the ARCEP Executive Board decided, for the sake of transparency and peace of mind, to verify the coverage achieved by the 3G cellular network currently deployed by Free Mobile. On Friday, 27th January, after having informed the cabinet of the Minister responsible for Industry, Energy and the Digital Economy, Mr Eric Besson, of this decision, ARCEP issued a press release at 2:10 pm.
Around 2:30 pm that same day, ARCEP received a letter from the Minister stating that he would appreciate receiving confirmation from ARCEP that Free Mobile was indeed complying with the coverage obligations attached to its 3G cellular network.
When, around 3 pm, lefigaro.fr published an article referring to the Minister's letter but which made no mention of the information that ARCEP had issued earlier in its press release, the Authority contacted the editors of Le Figaro to provide them with an exact chronology of the events, as described above.
Despite which, a headline in the 28th and 29th January editions of Le Figaro speaks of a "battle of wills" between the Minister and ARCEP, which could give the false impression that ARCEP decided to verify Free's network coverage only after having been requested to do so by Mr Besson. The article also suggests dissent in the relationship between ARCEP and the Government, even though the regulator and the Government are entirely in agreement over the course of action to be taken.
ARCEP would also like to offer a final clarification, namely that the verifications the Authority will be performing in the near future will be of the actual state of Free's network, and not its status in November 2011 - which was verified in December 2011. So the process will not involve "repeating the measurements," as reported in Le Figaro, but rather performing new measurements on the network that has been launched commercially, and which has undergone alterations since November 2011.