Paris, 24 September 2010
On 22 December 2009, Orange France and SFR were served with an official notice to comply with their rollout obligations within a newly set timeframe. Orange France and SFR had failed to meet the 3G coverage obligations listed in their licences, namely to have achieved coverage of 98% and 99.3% of the population of mainland France, respectively, by 21 August 2009.
By virtue of this notice to comply, Orange France must have covered 91% of the population with 3G access by the end of 2010, and 98% of the population by the end of 2011. SFR, meanwhile, was to be providing 3G coverage to 84% of the population by 30 June 2010, 88% of the population by the end of 2010, 98% by the end of 2011 and 99.3% by the end of 2013.
Over the course of the summer, efforts were devoted to verifying that SFR had met the deadline for the 3G coverage obligations cited in the notice to comply.
These efforts consisted, first, of checking the accuracy of the 3G coverage map submitted by the operator, compared to the reality in the field and, second, of calculating the percentage of the population covered by 3G based on this coverage map.
To verify the 3G coverage map submitted by SFR, measurements were performed in the field over the course of summer 2010. The conclusion was that the map provided by SFR had a degree of accuracy that complied, on the whole, with the level stipulated in its licence. It nevertheless emerged that 3G coverage in the 900 MHz band was less reliable than 3G coverage supplied in the 2.1 GHz band.
To calculate the percentage of the population covered for 3G services by SFR, ARCEP rapporteurs relied on the 3G coverage map supplied by SFR and a geographic database of the population, positioned by residence (Pitney Bowes population base). The rate of 3G coverage is calculated by comparing the population located in the areas with 3G coverage and the population of Metropolitan France. The calculations led to a finding of a rate of 3G coverage for SFR of 84% of the population as of 30 June 2010.
Based on this work, the Director General of ARCEP concluded that there was no need to proceed with the enforcement of the notice to comply with the terms of the first deadline, which fell on 30 June 2010.
It is nevertheless worth noting that this rate of 3G coverage is below the 87% announced by SFR in a press release dated 8 July 2010, and well below the rate of 99.3% of the population of mainland France that the company originally committed to achieving by 21 August 2009.
Using the method described above, ARCEP will perform checks on coverage levels when the next deadlines set for mobile operators occur: Bouygues Telecom is to be providing 75% of the population with 3G coverage by 12 December 2010, in accordance with the terms of the licence it was awarded in 2002, while Orange France and SFR are to be providing 3G coverage to 91% and 88% of the population, respectively, by 31 December 2010, under the terms of the notices to comply issued on 30 November 2009.