The European Commission publishes its comments on the ARCEP draft decision concerning optical fibre rollouts in the whole of France, outside of high-density areas

Paris, 2nd December 2010,

The European Commission has published its comments on the ARCEP draft decision which specifies the terms and conditions governing access to optical fibre ultra-fast broadband electronic communications lines in the whole of France, outside of very high-density areas, which ARCEP submitted to the Commission on 25 October of this year.
The Authority will take utmost account of these comments when adopting its decision in the near future.

Degree of precision in the regulatory framework
First, the European Commission invites the Authority to provide more detailed information on the terms of implementation included in the draft decision, to flesh out the guidelines its contains. The purpose of the draft decision submitted to the Commission is indeed to define the guiding principles for network deployments over the coming decades. At the same time, ARCEP is engaged in discussions with operators and local authorities to establish, over the course of 2011, a detailed scheme for implementing these guidelines.

The Authority will work to achieve a balance between the definition of a precise regulatory framework that offers stakeholders a sufficient degree of clarity, in particular about coinvestment arrangements, and a degree of flexibility that will make it possible to gradually bring more detail to the most relevant regulation, drawing on real market experience.

Size of the concentration points
Second, the European Commission invites ARCEP to pay particular attention to the size of the concentration points and the “collection solution”. The draft decision plans for the operator who performs the rollout to determine the location of a concentration point that houses a large enough number of lines to ensure an economic and technical equation which allows several operators to connect their network to that point. ARCEP has evaluated this figure at roughly one thousand lines.

It nevertheless appears that network rollouts and configurations result, in certain instances, in favouring smaller concentration points. To enable optimised rollouts in the most cost-effective manner that guarantees competing operators access to smaller concentration points, the Authority added the proviso that a distant connection solution must be on offer (referred to in the present draft decision as a “collection solution”). This obligation to provide distant connection is therefore a necessary corollary to the obligation concerning the size of concentration points, and makes it possible to provide the operators performing the rollouts with some degree of flexibility in their efforts to optimise network configurations and reduce rollout costs, which will ultimately be shouldered by consumers.

Relationship between symmetrical and asymmetrical regulation

Finally, the European Commission invites ARCEP to ensure a coherent correlation between the present draft decision that imposes symmetrical regulation and the asymmetrical regulatory measures that it will be required to impose on an SMP operator in the unbundling and bitstream markets. The Authority is indeed in the midst of the adoption process for its analysis of markets 4 and 5, and is expected to request the opinion of the French Competition Authority by the end of the year, before notifying its draft decisions to the European Commission in the first quarter of 2011. As part of this process, ARCEP will be mindful to ensure that the obligations imposed on a possible SMP operator will be a coherent adjunct to the terms imposed by the symmetrical regulation, and that they comply with the obligations laid out in the European regulatory framework, particularly in terms of the proportionate nature of the remedies and the recommendations issued by the European Commission concerning regulated access to next generation networks 1.

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Commission recommendation of 20 September 2010 on regulated access to next generation access networks (NGA), Official Journal L 251 of 25 September 2010, p.35


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