Network sharing needs to be limited in scope or it could damage long-term investments in infrastructure, the French regulator has ruled.
Arcep has been examining how network sharing programmes benefit or harm the French market since the beginning of the year. It is specifically scrutinising deals between Free Mobile and Orange, and SFR and Bouygues.
It held a public consultation into the area that ended in April. In a statement, a spokesperson said: “Roaming can be beneficial, and can be justified in relation to regulatory objectives. However, roaming can only be transitory or limited in scale, particularly given the disincentive to invest it could otherwise induce.
“Network sharing can be a relevant solution in the more sparsely populated parts of the country, and acceptable provided that its negative impact, notably in the area of competition, can be offset by positive effects, and particularly in improving the coverage and quality of mobile services.”
Arcep is proposing the 3G roaming agreement between Free Mobile and Orange to be axed between the end of 2018 and end of 2020. Free’s customers will be able to access Orange’s 2G network until 2022.
It said SFR and Bouygues must stop their LTE roaming agreement by the end of 2018, as it wanted to force further investment in French networks.
Arcep has now invited operators to submit a draft of all of its new network sharing agreements. In what it described as the “adversarial phase”, it said affected operators have until the middle of next month to fully review its proposals and state how they will change their sharing projects.