Paris, 10 November 2015
In the process of settling a dispute between Free Mobile and SFR, the ARCEP body responsible for settling disputes specified the terms and conditions under which masts must be shared by these two mobile network operators.
To be able to provide their services, mobile operators deploy cell towers on sites to ensure nationwide coverage. There are close to 40,000 such sites in Metropolitan France, and include a wide variety of forms, of which the main ones are flat roofs, masts and water towers.
The regulatory framework stipulates that mobile operators must, whenever possible, share passive sites, the main reasons being cost-effectiveness and environmental protection, i.e. protecting the landscape by deploying as few cell towers as possible. As a result, operators must grant all reasonable requests from other operators to access their sites. Moreover, because it entered the market at a later date, mobile operators have specific obligations towards Free Mobile.
It was within this context that Free Mobile appealed to ARCEP to settle a dispute over the conditions under which it can access SFR masts. If the terms and conditions for accessing SFR masts appeared satisfactory in 2014, Free Mobile complained that the rate of production had slowed since the end of that year, and that SFR had refused its latest order. Free Mobile thus requested of ARCEP that SFR accept that order, and that SFR be subject to a binding timetable for making its masts available.
In this particular case, ARCEP concluded that the pace at which SFR was making its masts available in 2015 was insufficient, which therefore tended to rob the regulatory obligations incumbent on SFR of their effectiveness.
To ensure that it provide Free Mobile with full and diligent access to its sites, ARCEP has instructed SFR to offer Free Mobile, within a tight deadline, an amendment to the agreement in question, accepting the order from Free Mobile and setting out a timetable for making the sites available. SFR must therefore comply with a minimum rate of production, as defined by ARCEP, provided that Free Mobile also comply with its contractual obligations.
This decision will be published in the near future, with due consideration for the protection of trade secrets.
ARCEP opinion n° 2015-1265-RDPI (pdf - 224 Ko) (in French only)