Arcep publishes its updated scorecard on mobile rollouts in sparsely populated areas 

Paris, 19 May 2016

Ensuring mobile connectivity in the whole of France, and particularly in the country's more sparsely populated areas, is one of Arcep's top priorities, as reaffirmed during its recent strategic review as one of the four cornerstones of its actions. To this end, Arcep works to ensure that operators meet their rollout obligations, be it for 2G, 3G or 4G networks, so that no region is left behind.

All of the information, which is available as open data files, along with the interactive scorecard is available online. Arcep will publish the next update of this scorecard in September.

The scorecard provides an update on a series of obligations assigned to operators

These obligations were set out either in the government "town centre not-spots" programme or in the terms of operators' frequency licences.

As concerns the "town centre not-spots" programme, thanks to a shared network and by means of public financing, operators are jointly required to provide basic coverage in a certain number of town centres which the State has identified as being entirely without coverage. The Act on Growth, Business and Equal economic opportunity of 6 August 2015 initiated a new census of town centres bereft of coverage, which was conducted that same year: more than 250 newly identified town centres will benefit from this programme that first launched back in 2003. Operators are now committed to bringing at least 2G coverage to some 3,600 town centres by 31 December 2016 and 3G coverage by 30 June 2017, or at the latest six months after public authorities have made towers available.

On the matter of 4G, the frequency licences issued to operators carry specific coverage obligations for France's sparsely populated zone, which is made up of more than 22,500 rural municipalities representing 18% of the country's population but 63% of its land mass. Operators that have a 4G licence in the 800 MHz band (Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR) are required to cover 40% of the population in this sparsely populated zone, using the 800 MHz band, by 17 January 2017. Because it has no 800 MHz-band licence, Free Mobile is not subject to this obligation. It is, however, required to provide 4G coverage to 50% of the population of this same zone, using the 700 MHz band, by 17 January 2022.

"Town centre not-spots" programme: Arcep's "RDPI" body notifies a statement of objections to Orange and SFR

In addition, today the Arcep body responsible for settling disputes, legal proceedings and investigations (referred to in French as "RDPI") is making public its decision to notify a statement of objections to Orange and SFR on 27 April, concerning 2G rollouts in the town centres covered by the "town centre not-spots" programme.

In July 2015 the three operators, Bouygues Telecom, Orange and SFR, were issued a formal notice to deploy 2G in seventeen, eight and fifty three town centres, respectively, by 1 January 2016. After examination, the "RDPI" concluded that Orange and SFR had failed to meet those obligations as there remained five and forty seven town centres uncovered on that date. Bouygues Telecom fulfilled its obligations by the deadline.

As a result, the "RDPI" forwarded the investigation file and the statements of objections to Arcep's Restricted body, which is responsible for deciding whether or not to impose sanctions. It stressed that the statements of objections pertained to those town centres that had not been covered as of 1 January 2016, and some have been covered since then. It is now up to the Restricted body, following adversary proceedings, to assess the allegations and deliberate over what, if any, sanctions should be imposed on the two operators.

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