Paris, 28 February 2017
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, and reaffirmed during its strategic review as one of the four cornerstones of its actions. To this end, Arcep works to ensure that operators meet their 2G, 3G and 4G network rollout obligations.
In Q1 2016 Arcep thus created a scorecard on mobile network rollout obligations in sparsely populated areas, and today is publishing the latest update.
All of the information, which is available as open data files, along with the interactive scorecard is available online at: http://www.arcep.fr/zones-peu-denses. Arcep will publish the next update in May 2017.
Rollouts progressing steadily
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' 4G frequency licences.
Under the terms of the "town centre not-spots" programme, operators are jointly required to provide basic coverage in a certain number of town centres which continue to be mobile white areas, by means of a shared network and thanks to public financing. This programme began back in 2003 and includes close to 3,800 town centres, after the addition of 268 more locations in 2016. These town centres represent around 1% of the population of France:
- 92% of the town centres in the programme have voice and SMS service coverage. The vast majority of the remaining town centres are waiting for public authorities to install a tower to ensure their coverage. In addition, operators still need to deploy their network equipment in four town centres, including three where they are reporting difficulties in installing towers.
- High speed 3G coverage levels continue to improve: over the last quarter, Bouygues Telecom increased its coverage of the town centres for which it is responsible from 58% to 84%, while SFR has increased its coverage from 56% to 76%, and Orange from 68% to 79%. Operators need to continue on with their rollouts to ensure their completion by 30 June 2017, and so comply with their obligations, in accordance with the law.
Regarding 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.
Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR are reporting that they have met this obligation. Arcep will conduct a measurement campaign in the field in the coming weeks, to verify that each of the three operators has indeed fulfilled its obligations.
Because it has no 800 MHz-band licence, Free Mobile is not subject to this same 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.
> Scorecard on mobile rollouts in sparsely populated areas in France: http://www.arcep.fr/zones-peu-denses