Paris, 26 July 2017
Ensuring mobile connectivity in the whole of France, and particularly in the country's more sparsely populated areas, is one of Arcep's top priorities, and reaffirmed during its strategic review as one of the four pillars of its actions. To this end, Arcep works to ensure that operators meet their 2G, 3G and 4G rollout obligations.
In Q1 2016 Arcep thus created a scorecard on mobile network rollouts in sparsely populated areas, and today is publishing the latest quarterly update:
All of the information, which is available as open data files, along with the interactive scorecard can be accessed online at: https://www.arcep.fr/zones-peu-denses.
Rollouts moving forward
This scorecard provides an update on a series of rollout obligations assigned to operators. These obligations were set out either in the government "town centre white spots" programme or in the terms of operators' 4G frequency licences.
• The "town centre white spots" programme
Operators are jointly required to provide basic coverage in a certain number of town centres which continue to be without coverage, by means of a shared network and with the support of public financing. This programme began back in 2003 and includes more than 4,000 town centres, after the addition of 268 town centres in 2016 and a further 273 locations in 2017. These town centres together represent around 1% of the population of France. After 2G, operators were required to launch 3G services in every area covered by the programme, by 30 June 2017 at the latest (or at most, when scheduled, six months after public authorities make a tower available).
Operators declare that they have met their obligations. They nevertheless report having encountered problems the tower's installation in three locations. A field audit will be conducted in the second half of the year, and special attention will be paid to these three cases in particular.
As a result, as of 30 June 2017, based on operators' statements, more than 3,500 municipalities and town centres are being provided with 3G coverage from all four operators thanks to the "town centre white spots" programme.
Operators will be required to bring 3G coverage to additional locations, at the latest six months after public authorities make a tower available. These locations include 23 municipalities that have been part of the programme from the start, the additional 268 town centres identified in 2016 and the 273 locations that were added in 2017. Operators' rollouts will be closely monitored.
• Regarding 4G
The frequency licences issued to operators carry specific coverage obligations for France's sparsely populated zone, which is made up of more than 22,500 rural municipalities representing 18% of the country's population but 63% of its land mass. Operators that have a 4G licence in the 800 MHz band (Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR) were required to cover 40% of the population in this sparsely populated zone, using the 800 MHz band, by 17 January 2017.
As of 17 January 2017, Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR had all met this obligation. Because it has no 800 MHz-band licence, Free Mobile is not subject to this same obligation. It is, however, required to provide 4G coverage to 50% of the population of this same zone, using the 700 MHz band, by 17 January 2022.
In addition to satisfying these obligations, operators have continued to build out their networks in these areas. As a result, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, Orange and Free Mobile are reporting 4G coverage, using the 800 MHz and other frequency bands, of 74%, 70%, 69% and 47%, respectively, of the population in this sparsely populated zone as of July 2017. The deployments must continue.
• Scorecard on mobile rollouts in sparsely populated areas in France: www.arcep.fr/zones-peu-denses