Market analysis

Business Market

Arcep delivers a scorecard of the fixed telephone market for businesses in France, and opens the way to possible regulatory changes for 2021 – 2026, in preparation for its analysis of fixed telephone markets for businesses


Arcep is initiating a new round of analysis of fixed telephone markets for businesses, for the period running from 2021 to 2026. In the “Scoreboard and Outlook” document that it is publishing today for consultation, Arcep identifies the core regulatory issues facing fixed telephone markets for businesses in the coming years. The aim is to adapt its regulation to the context of a PSTN switch-off: encouraging a direct migration from the PSTN [1] to fibre, the future infrastructure of reference, and maintaining the conditions for fair competition between incumbent carrier, Orange, and alternative operators during the transitional period.

The market analysis decisions define the “asymmetric” obligations that apply to the operator enjoying significant power (SMP) in the relevant markets in question. In practice, for the fixed telephone market for businesses the SMP operator is incumbent carrier, Orange. The purpose of these asymmetric obligations is to remedy identified competitive imbalances. By publishing the “Scoreboard and Outlook” document for consultation, today Arcep is kicking off the first stage in the review process for regulation governing fixed telephone markets for businesses [2]. The new market analysis decision will be adopted around mid-2021.

SCOREBOARD: on the retail market, the transition from PSTN technology to Voice over IP is underway, even if most subscriptions still rely on the legacy network

A large selection of fixed Voice over IP (VoIP) products is available in the marketplace, at competitive prices, including those designed by certain enterprises to fully replace specific PSTN uses.

Even if PSTN technology still accounts for the majority of businesses’ fixed telephony subscriptions, the decrease in the sale of PSTN subscriptions to enterprises is accelerating for all operators, albeit at a faster pace for Orange than for alternative operators. Orange continues to enjoy a predominant market share, including for VoIP services [3].

The process of switching off the Orange PSTN has begun, with the production of new access lines now shut down in Metropolitan France, and imminent in France’s overseas markets. The first technical switch-offs are scheduled for 2023, with a trial switch-off in seven municipalities [4] set for 2021.

OUTLOOK: adapting the regulation to a shrinking market, while encouraging a direct migration from the PSTN to fibre, the future infrastructure of reference

The document explores the core issues that Arcep has identified for 2021 – 2026, and the avenues for enacting regulatory changes in the two wholesale fixed telephone markets for businesses.

Ensuring that the conditions of the transition encourage a direct migration from the PSTN to fibre

The announcement from Orange over its plans to switch off the copper local loop between 2023 and 2030 alters the perspective on the PSTN switch-off: the most appropriate course now is to encourage a direct migration to fibre. To achieve, this, Orange must coordinate the timetable for the PSTN’s technical switch-off and the legacy copper network’s switch-off, and support operators’ migration to copper in those instances where it proves inevitable.

Ensuring that the conditions for fair competition on the PSTN are maintained during the transitional period

During this period of a gradual network shutdown, if it remains necessary to maintain the conditions for fair competition – particularly with respect to quality of service and the pricing applied – relaxing a portion of this market’s ex ante regulation, notably call origination, nevertheless seems possible.

What happens next?

This public consultation is open until 28 September 2020.

By early 2021, a draft market analysis decision will be submitted to public consultation, then transmitted to the Competition Authority for opinion, before being notified to the European Commission.

The review process should be complete around mid-2021 and will conclude with the adoption of a new Decision, which will succeed the one that Arcep adopted in December 2017.

 


[1] Public Switched Telephone Network, the legacy technology for telephone services at a fixed location

[2] Market for access to the public telephone network at a fixed Location for non residential customers and the associated call origination market. The fixed call termination and call origination markets other than for carrier selection are not part of the markets being reviewed.

[3] Voice over IP (VoIP) corresponds to fixed telephone over IP services that are “managed” by the fixed telephone operator, which gives the data streams used for calling priority over the other data streams.

[4] On its institutional website, Orange published a page that provides key information on upgrading its network and switching off the PSTN: https://www.orange.com/fr/actualites/2017/fevrier/Orange-modernise-son-reseau-de-telephonie-fixe-vers-le-tout-IP.