Free Mobile meets 3G credentials, moves to build out LTE

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French operator Free Mobile has hit 78 percent population coverage for its 3G network, surpassing obligations set by the country's regulator.

ARCEP had said the French challenger brand needed to cover at least three quarters of metropolitan France by 12 January this year without the help of any roaming agreements with rival networks.

The regulator recently carried out more than 40,000 tests on Free Mobile's 3G networks and found it has met its obligation.

Free Mobile will now have to demonstrate that it offers 3G to at least 90 percent of the population. It has until 12 January 2018 to meet this demand.

The French operator said it will continue to invest in improving its network and plans to offer LTE to around 60 percent of France's population by the end of this year.

It added: "This rapid rollout is fully in line with the Group’s investment strategy, which has made it the operator with the highest level of investment effort (capex to sales ratio) in the French market for a number of years now, with a capex to sales ratio of more than 23%, compared with around 15% for its competitors."

Free Mobile had scored poorly in ARCEP's assessment of the French market last year. Its median download speed was 4MBps, compared to 7.2MBps for the wider French market.

ARCEP had said the operator had "substantially poorer results" in a large number of categories compared to its rivals. It only scored above average in two categories.

Free Mobile has proved a disruptive force in the French market, with the operator promisiing to build more than 1,500 cell sites by the end of this year to improve coverage.

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