ARCEP releases the results of the audits performed in 2010 to verify the accuracy of the GSM coverage maps published by mobile operatorsARCEP has set the list of the 286 new municipalities to be audited in 2011

Paris, 16 March 2011

Cellular networks now cover a very large percentage of the French national territory. Having mobile access nationwide is not only something that consumers expect, but also an important contributor to the country’s economic and regional development.

To achieve the greatest possible degree of transparency with respect to mobile coverage, in March 2006 ARCEP introduced new measures in this area when it came time to renew operators’ GSM licences. As a result, mobile operators are required to publish their coverage maps and to have them verified by field surveys performed in accordance with a public protocol defined by ARCEP. This field survey protocol(1) is available to the public and can be implemented by any party, either individual or corporate, wanting to perform a new audit in a municipality that has already been audited or to measure coverage in a municipality that has not yet been audited.

Since 2007, operators have been publishing coverage maps whose accuracy is checked each year through field surveys

These maps are available online at the following addresses:

- http://couverture-reseau.orange.fr/france/netenmap.php;
- http://assistance.sfr.fr/mobile_forfait/mobile/couverture-reseau/en-48-62267;
- http://www.cartographie.bouyguestelecom.fr/eCouverture/eCouverture.aspx.

The carriers are the guarantors of the published maps which depict the outdoor coverage they provide to pedestrians, with a success rate of 95% or over.

More than 1,000 municipalities have been audited since 2007, the purpose being to check the accuracy of the coverage maps published by mobile carriers. These audits are performed by an outside service provider who is selected by the operators and required to adhere to the measurement protocol set by ARCEP.

In 2010, Orange France, SFR and Bouygues Telecom measured coverage in 249 municipalities to check whether their maps matched the reality in the field

It is the results of these audits performed in 2010 that ARCEP is publishing today.

They reveal that the coverage maps published by the three operators match field measurements with an accuracy level of 98%(2). Although the reliability of the maps is generally good at the national level, it still needs to be improved in certain municipalities: ARCEP therefore reminded operators of the need to correct the published maps and has planned for new audits to be performed in 2011, as provided for in Decision No. 2007-0178.

It is encouraging to note that we are seeing the effects of the measures that carriers have been implementing since 2007 to improve the accuracy of their coverage maps, as the reliability of the maps of audited départements has improved significantly.

Possible ongoing disparities between the maps and the customer experience

The coverage maps produced by the carriers do not represent every possible customer experience. Rather, they correspond to the ability to make a phone call and maintain the connection for one minute, outdoors, using a classic handset, in a fixed position, with a success rate of 95% or over.

This means that, in a location that is stated to be covered, the probability of being unable to make a call is never zero, in particular because of uncontrollable variations in radio propagation. An area is therefore depicted as being covered on the maps if the probability of being able to access a given service of a set quality is sufficiently high. This means that there is always a non-zero probability that calls in zones reported as being covered could fail.

Audits will be carried out by operators in 286 new municipalities in 2011

In its Decision No. 2011-0270 of 8 March 2011, ARCEP published the new list of the 286 municipalities to be audited by operators in 2011. This list was established with the goal of being representative of the country as a whole, and by taking account of the correspondence that ARCEP has received from local elected officials and citizens on the topic of mobile coverage. The survey must be completed by the end of October 2011, and the results made available in early 2012.

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View(1)The system is defined in ARCEP Decision No. 2007-0178, dated 20 February 2007
(2) For different reasons which are laid out in detail in the reports on coverage published by ARCEP in 2009, notably uncontrollable variations in radio propagation, it is very difficult to achieve 100% accuracy.