Paris, 12 January 2016
ARCEP submits its analysis to public consultation
The Act on Growth, business and equal economic opportunity, published on 7 August 2015, invested ARCEP with a new power, namely the power to request that operators amend their mobile network sharing agreements, notably when it proves necessary to meet regulatory objectives.
To provide the sector with clarity on the conditions under which it intends to implement this new power, today ARCEP is submitting a working document to public consultation which includes draft guidelines on mobile network sharing, along with initial analyses of existing contracts. These include a priori warranted changes to be brought to existing mobile network sharing contracts. Stakeholders are invited to submit their comments on these elements by 23 February 2016. The document will also be submitted to the Competition Authority for an opinion. The initial analyses it contains may be amended depending on the responses to the consultation.
ARCEP stresses that the document being published today for consultation was drafted by taking into account the market's current structure of four mobile network operators in Metropolitan France. Here too, the initial analysis could be amended should the market structure evolve.
Gradual termination of roaming agreements
There are currently two main mobile network sharing agreements in effect in Metropolitan France.
First, a 2G/3G roaming agreement allows Free Mobile customers to access the Orange network, albeit with lesser coverage and lower quality than what is available to Orange customers. If this solution was justified to accompany the fourth mobile operator's entry into the marketplace, it cannot be justified over the long term. The roadmap for terminating roaming agreements must now be defined, parallel to Free Mobile network rollouts. At this stage, ARCEP plans for the termination process to begin quickly, without waiting for the existing contract to expire. For (3G equivalent) high-speed mobile services, ARCEP believes that the agreements should be terminated on a date which, at this stage, has been set at between the end of 2018 and the end of 2020. For voice, SMS and low-speed (2G equivalent) services, which are of lesser importance in terms of investments, the termination could come into effect on a date which, at this stage, has been set at between the beginning of 2020 and the end of 2022.
Proposed roadmap for terminating Free Mobile roaming, subject to public consultation
Second, SFR and Bouygues Telecom signed an agreement for sharing their 2G/3G/4G networks over a large portion of Metropolitan France. ARCEP wants to ensure that this wide-reaching agreement indeed enables, as the two operators have indicated, improved coverage and quality of service for users. Moreover, this agreement includes a 4G roaming solution for SFR customers on a portion of the Bouygues Telecom network. Because investments in 4G infrastructure are crucial to the market's vitality, ARCEP is calling for a specific end date for superfast (4G equivalent) roaming which, at this stage, has been set at between the end of 2016 and the end of 2018.
Proposed roadmap for terminating SFR roaming, subject to public consultation
At this stage in the present public consultation process, ARCEP is leaving open the specific end dates that it is recommending for roaming services. It invites the interested parties to indicate the dates they believe are justified, preferably within the three pre-identified time spans.
The public consultation (pdf - 1.66 Mo) (pdf - in French only)