Paris, 28 July 2016
Informing citizens on mobile service coverage and quality: one of Arcep's key roles
The strategic review that Arcep carried out in 2015 identified improving mobile service coverage maps as one of the 12 priorities for 2016/2017.
Arcep believes strongly in the importance of providing users with good information on the coverage ('can I get a signal?') and quality ('how reliable is the connection for making and receiving calls or sending/receiving texts? How fast is my connection?') they can expect of the services provided by their mobile operators.
When choosing their operator, users can apply several criteria: price, the content of the plan (number of Gb of data allowed per month, number of international calling minutes included, etc.) the quality of the operator's service and its network coverage. If the information that is publicly available allows users to compare operators reliably on the first two criteria, it is much harder for them to compare quality and coverage levels, particularly for mobile services. This is why Arcep began publishing mobile service coverage and quality scoreboards in 2014, with a dual objective in mind: provide users with more detailed information so that they can make an informed choice when subscribing to a mobile plan, and thereby stimulate operators' investments by using differences in coverage and quality as selling points.
Arcep is committed to improving the information that it makes available to the public, using a data-driven approach. Every year, it performs several types of audit whose purpose is to:
1/ measure the quality of service on mobile networks,
2/ verify the accuracy of the coverage maps that operators are required to publish.
Improve and enhance coverage maps to better reflect the user experience and allow users to compare operators
Because of the strong expectations attached to mobile operators' coverage maps, working in tandem with the Government, Arcep wants to bring changes to operators' obligations. These changes are made possible by the Act on Growth, business and equal economic opportunity (commonly known as the "Macron Act") and the Digital Republic Act ("Lemaire Act").
Today, Arcep is launching a public consultation that will run until 3 October 2016, on a draft decision whose purpose is to establish a new framework for the publication of mobile coverage maps.
• What is the goal?
The goal is to give users access to better information on where the quality of mobile coverage is good and where it is less good. Rather than simple binary maps, once this decision comes into effect, operators will publish more detailed coverage maps that provide a distinction between areas where coverage is good and those where coverage is limited.
This draft decision represents a first step: it aims to enhance coverage maps for both phone calls and SMS.
Arcep will make these maps available as open data files, in accordance with the Lemaire Act which will come into effect shortly. As a result, anyone who so desires will be able to use these maps to develop innovative applications.
• What next?
Once the consultation is complete, Arcep will submit a decision to the Government for approval. Once the decision has been approved, operators will have three months to bring the required changes to their coverage maps.
As an added measure, Arcep is kicking off a dialogue on how to improve coverage maps on mobile data services (internet, video, etc.). Depending on how this work progresses, the Arcep decision may contain provisions on how to improve these maps as well.
Lastly, on the matter of fixed networks (ADSL, FttH, etc.) not covered by this decision, in autumn 2016 Arcep will begin working on what changes might be brought to the maps that operators publish on the availability of internet access in a fixed location, with a view to holding a consultation on the matter in the final quarter of the year.
Public consultation on a draft decision on improving mobile coverage maps (in French)
Mobile service quality and coverage observatory (in French)