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MOBILE CONNECTIVITY IN THE REGIONS

Arcep publishes its updated scorecard on operators' compliance with mobile network rollout obligations in sparsely populated areas  

Paris, 25 November 2016

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 recent strategic review as one of the four cornerstones of its actions. To this end, Arcep works to ensure that operators meet their 2G, 3G and 4G network rollout obligations.

In February of this year, Arcep created a scorecard on mobile network rollout obligations in sparsely populated areas, and today is publishing the latest update.

All of the information, which is available as open data files, along with the interactive scorecard is available online at: www.arcep.fr/index.php. Arcep will publish the next update in February 2017.

Rollouts are progressing, but need to accelerate

The scorecard provides an update on a series of obligations assigned to operators. These obligations were set out either in the government "town centre not-spots" programme or in the terms of operators' 4G frequency licences.

Under the terms of the "town centre not-spots" programme, operators are jointly required to provide basic coverage in a certain number of town centres which continue to be mobile not-spots, by means of a shared network and thanks to public financing. This programme began back in 2003 and includes close to 3,800 town centres, after the addition of 268 more locations in 2016. These town centres represent around 1% of the population of France:

- 91% of the town centres in the programme have voice and SMS service coverage. The vast majority of the remaining town centres are waiting for public authorities to install a tower to ensure their coverage. However, in around a dozen other town centres that are part of the programme, rollouts by operators have been pending for several years. Operators, and particularly SFR, therefore need to finalise their deployments as quickly as possible.

- High speed 3G coverage levels are improving: over the last quarter, Orange increased its coverage of the town centres for which it is responsible from 62% to 68%, while SFR has increased its coverage from 52% to 56%, and Bouygues Telecom has progressed to 58%.Operators need to continue to accelerate their rollouts to ensure their completion by 30 June 2017, and so comply with their obligations, in accordance with the law.

On the matter of 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) are required to cover 40% of the population in this sparsely populated zone, using the 800 MHz band, by 17 January 2017.

Orange and Bouygues Telecom are reporting more than 40% coverage of the population in this zone. Meanwhile, SFR reports that it progressed from 25% to 32% coverage during the previous quarter. Arcep will conduct a measurement campaign in the field in Q1 2017, to verify that each of the three operators is meeting its obligations.

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.



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