ARCEP meets with the Committee des Réseaux d’Initiative Publique to discuss with municipalities and operators on the coverage of high speed white zones and forms of public intervention which might encourage the deployment of fibre networks

Paris, 19 March 2007

The Committee des Réseaux d’initiative publique (CRIP) is a discussion group created by ARCEP in late 2004, made up of territorial units, operators and institutions concerned by digital regional development.

Technical groups and sub-groups composed of public and private players meet once each month. A plenary session is held once a year so that all interested elected officials and ARCEP can review the year’s work and establish the programme for the coming year.

The third Committee plenary meeting was held on 15 March 2007.

  • 2006 review

The municipalities’ commitment is confirmed since Article L.1425-1 of the Code des Collectivités Locales in the law on trust in the digital economy was voted in. There are now 77 projects, of which 41 are currently under deployment. They are being led by four regions, 19 départements and 18 conurbations.

The main effects of the municipalities’ action are as follows:

- The geographic extension of unbundling (half of unbundled MDFs and one-third of lines eligible for unbundling at end 2006 were unbundled under public initiatives), whose work has highlighted the impact on the penetration of high speed and therefore on the development of the information society in the territories

- The equipment of business areas in high speed (2 000 will be "fibred" thanks to the assistance of municipalities), which has led to the publication of a guide for planners and plans for a "very high-speed activity area" label

- The coverage of high speed white zones, using wireless technologies like WiMAX and the provision of public high points for operators, for which the legal regimes have been clarified, especially as concerns the rules for transferring WiMAX frequencies

- The emergence of local operators using municipalities' networks and addressing locally the small and medium-sized business market or the residential market in white zones, and for which an ad hoc legal guide published today should help to simplify procedures

- very high speed in residential areas, where municipalities can act as "facilitators", and for which work has focussed on municipalities laying back-up capacities during roadwork and network works

  • Decreasing high speed white zones: providing municipalities with WiMAX frequencies, sharing high points

By the end of 2006, France Telecom had almost completed its DSL equipment program for its MDFs. On 1st January 2007, only a few hundred sites remained to be equipped. Remaining white zones concern about 2% of the population, or about 500 000 households and businesses. These are located primarily in little populated rural areas, but can also be in "white pockets", just outside dense conurbations.

In areas with low populations, wireless technologies appear to be an appropriate tool for digital regional development. Coverage projects are facilitated by WiMAX licences which were assigned in the summer of 2006. First, six regional councils were granted licences, which will allow the municipalities concerned to complete the public initiative projects begun. Then, private operators signed coverage commitments. WiMAX frequencies provisions and transfers from operators to municipalities are also possible in areas where municipalities have not been assigned frequencies

On this point, at the last plenary meeting, some municipalities mentioned problems they’d been having in negotiating WiMAX frequency provisions or transfers with operators. Paul Champsaur responded stating that "in 2007 the operators will have to be able to engage in a constructive dialogue with those municipalities desiring one, in order to clarify their deployment intentions, the means of public action which might extend it and, if appropriate, to return WiMAX frequencies which would be lastingly unused".

The ARCEP Chairman also invited WiMAX operators to present to the CRIP their "intentions and positions in terms of identifying and transferring unused frequencies". Because, he added, "it would appear that the Committee should be able to examine in a more general way the conditions of sharing high points in low population areas, since these could be financed directly or indirectly, using public funds and could be used for mobile services, for high speed and, perhaps tomorrow for audiovisual broadcasting".

In the longer term, it should be possible to find synergies between the infrastructures and public financing provided by the municipalities to cover mobile telephony, high speed and terrestrial digital television white zones.

  • Encouraging the deployment of fibre access networks

During the next decade, the copper local loop will reach the limits of its capacities. To allow very high speed, it will be necessary to deploy new infrastructures. In urban areas, these will be next generation optical local loops (fibre).

Paul Champsaur emphasised the complexity of the subject, where the long-term choices remain to be made: "can operators make numerous deployments in the same regions? If so, how do we encourage it? If not, do we want this new loop to be managed by a private monopoly which is regulated at the national level or by local monopolies which combine public and private players?"

The main issues will be:

- the speed of deployments depending on the region

- wherever possible, the emergence of competition on the local loop

- wherever a monopoly emerges, whether public or private, the means of its regulation, whether local or national

In these three areas, the intervention of local municipalities is what might shift the balances. Their role as "facilitators" will be decisive, especially in:

- facilitating civil engineering works which will be indispensable for operators in making deployments, especially for those not already having sheaths

- creating a leverage effect on private investment

- avoiding inefficient duplication of basic infrastructures, which can be shared by operators

- ensuring equitable opening of the new local loop

On this last point, Paul Champsaur stated: "we don't want to move towards a market where you need to move house just to switch operators".

The areas of work for 2007: how to durably cover high speed white zones, and what forms of public intervention will encourage the deployment of fibre access networks.

In 2007, the Committee’s work will extend these two topics: 1/ the means and modes of intervention for effective and durable coverage of high speed white zones and 2/ the means of public intervention which might encourage the deployment of very high-speed networks.

Concerning white zones, work will focus on:

- clarifying the deployment programs of operators to whom WiMAX frequencies have been assigned

- the legal and economic means of providing unused frequencies

- the conditions of sharing and accessing high points in low population areas

Concerning fibre access networks, work will focus on:

- drafting a guide on laying back-up capacities during roadwork

- discussions between operators and municipalities on the best means of public intervention

- operators sharing terminating part of these networks

Linked documents

At this CRIP meeting, ARCEP published two documents which are available for downloading :

Smiley a legal guide for local operators and municipalities (pdf - Smiley) Smiley

Smiley a report on CRIP’s work in 2006 (pdf (pdf - 2.21 Mo)- Smiley) Smiley