Paris, 6 October 2010
In its September 24th issue, when mentioning that ARCEP did not include 3G roaming rights in the mobile telephony licence awarded to Free in January 2010, the La Lettre A newsletter referred to it as a "blunder committed by ARCEP" ("bourde de l'ARCEP").
On Monday, 27 September, ARCEP contacted the Editor-in-chief of this weekly publication to explain to him that it was not legally possible for ARCEP to include such a right in the licence issued to operator Free, and requested that the newsletter publish a retraction.
As La Lettre A did not publish the requested retraction in its October 1st issue, the Authority has therefore decided to release the information that was transmitted to that publication.
Why did ARCEP not provide the fourth mobile operator with 3G roaming rights?
It was not legally possible for the Authority to include such a right in the licence awarded to Free since the call for applications that resulted in Free Mobile being selected for the fourth mobile telephony licence was a continuation of the previous calls for applications that began in 2000, and which resulted in the award of 3G licences in 2001 and 2002 to SFR, Orange and Bouygues Télécom, all of which held 2G licences.
Already back in the year 2000, this call for applications had planned for four 3G licences to be issued. To ensure a state of fair competition existed between the operators, it was planned that 2G roaming rights would be extended to any new entrant operator that did not have its own 2G network, so that it would not be handicapped compared to competing operators when rolling out its 3G network. Extending these 2G roaming rights to a new entrant was one of the terms included from the outset in the 3G licenses awarded to the three operators that were initially selected. It was impossible to extend 3G roaming rights to a new entrant since none of the operators had yet deployed a 3G network. As a result, because the process of issuing Free Mobile with a licence was part of the same procedure that resulted in the award of the first three licences, it was not possible to alter the terms of this procedure to impose these 3G roaming rights.