Today, Arcep is publishing the contents of two opinions that it submitted to the Government, in response to a request from the latter, pursuant to Article L. 33-13 of the French Postal and Electronic Communications Code (CPCE). Introduced by the Digital Republic Act, this article permits the minister, after having obtained Arcep's opinion, to accept operators' voluntary rollout commitments which Arcep is then responsible for monitoring.
The Government requested Arcep's opinion on proposals for legally binding commitments from Orange and SFR, consisting of covering with fibre to the home (FttH) networks those parts of France where the Government issued a call for investment letters of intent in 2010 (known as "zone AMII" in France).
This zone includes urban and suburban areas. Orange and SFR have proposed rollout commitments covering the entire "zone AMII", in other words more than 3,600 municipalities, corresponding to around 13.7 million premises (homes and businesses):
- Orange is proposing to commit to covering 2,978 municipalities totalling around 11.10 million premises: this proposal represents around 30% of the population, 7% of the country's surface area and 30% of all premises in France;
- SFR is proposing to commit to covering 641 municipalities, totalling around 2.55 million premises: this proposal represents around 8% of the population, 1.5% of the country's surface area and 7% of all premises in France.
1/ Arcep welcomes these proposals for legally binding commitments: FttH services will have to be available across the entire "zone AMII" by the end of 2020.
Orange is proposing to make 100% of the premises located in its target rollout area eligible for fibre access, by one of two deadlines: a minimum 92% of premises connectable by the end of 2020, with the remainder "connectable on request" (1), then 100% of premises connectable by the end of 2022. SFR is proposing to make a minimum 92% of the premises located in its target rollout area eligible for fibre access services by the end of 2020, with the remainder "connectable on request". Additionnaly, Arcep has issued a reminder that, in addition to these commitments, regulatory obligations of completeness apply in any event.
These proposals for commitments make the scope and timetable set for FttH rollouts in the listed locations legally binding, which permits Arcep to penalise any possible failures to meet said commitments, under the terms stipulated in CPCE Article L. 36-11.
Arcep notes that the proposed commitments from Orange and SFR, as set out in their letters of May 28th and May 31st; 2018, respectively, complete one another and are now part of a bid to achieve consistency between shared networks. Arcep welcomes both of these aspects, and stresses the progress that has been made since the operators' letters of February 20th, and March 15th, 2018.
2/ Arcep underscores several points that require attention:
- Orange and SFR must accelerate their rollouts to meet their commitments
Arcep reiterates the analysis set out in its Opinion No. 2017-1293 to the Senate, stating that the commitments proposed by the two operators will require a sustained scaling up of their efforts if they hope to meet their rollout targets by the set deadlines.
- Detailed information on rollout commitments is required to give local authorities clarity
Arcep believes that local authorities and operators need to work closely together with regard to the progress of and future plans for FttH rollouts in their areas. Arcep thus holds that operators must inform local authorities in their target rollout areas of their expected timetable, at least six months prior, through a proposal to update rollout scheduling and monitoring agreements.
3 / Arcep has also expressed serious reservations about the SFR proposal to upgrade cable networks
In its letter of May 28th, 2018, in addition to its fibre rollout commitments, SFR calls for the adoption of measures for "upgrading, streamlining and increasing the fluidity of rollouts on all of its superfast access networks", with particular focus on upgrading cable systems to fibre to the home networks.
In its opinion, Arcep expresses serious reservations about the measures that SFR is proposing to upgrade existing cable networks: these measures undermine the equilibrium between operators and owners, resulting from the 2008 Law of Modernisation of the Economy, and would also be a source of economic inefficiency for the rollouts. Such measures could hamper the deployments' momentum, and run counter to the objective of accelerating rollouts.
(1) In other words, passed by the operator within six months of receiving the user's initial connection request.