Working to achieve digital sustainability

Digital technology as a whole (devices, networks, software, datacentres, etc.) consumes a great deal of energy: generating 2% of all greenhouse gasses in France in 2019, and rising. Digital products are heavy power consumers, both in the production stage and when being used. And any progress towards greater sobriety is often cancelled out by the rebound effect. Arcep is of course very concerned about this issue, and published an initial brief on the matter in 2019.

Today, it is the deployment of 5G that is galvanising everyone’s attention. What impact will it have on the environment? One fascinating aspect of this new mobile technology is the breadth of applications it enables: teleworking, factories of the future, smart territories, telemedicine… At constant levels of consumption, 5G is more energy-efficient than its predecessors. Beyond the aforementioned uses, however, which could have a positive effect on those sectors’ environmental footprint, it could also be used massively for network gaming or watching films. These activities are not equally beneficial to society, of course. Could some of them – which may even be considered toxic when striving for digital sobriety – be moderated, or even avoided? Even more than deployment, the central question for 5G is how it will be used.

Looking beyond this very current topic, digital technology’s carbon footprint needs to be tackled as a whole: how to achieve the right interplay of proactive fibre and mobile network rollouts while taking regional needs into account? What role can sustainable design for applications play? What changes in user behaviour can we expect to see? etc. To this end, Arcep has launched an open and transparent platform devoted to “Achieving digital sustainability”. The aim is to weave environmental imperatives into concrete acts of digital regulation.

How can we achieve digital sustainability? Meaningful debate begins by eschewing attitudes of luddite obstinacy or slavish devotion to the gods of technology – to then work together on choosing the digital world we want to live in.

Serge Abiteboul, Arcep Executive Board member

Regulation in action

Setting the course for fibre in France

Fibre will outfit the entire country for many decades to come. This new reference infrastructure is being deploy on an unprecedented scale, and Arcep’s pro-investment regulation has served as a catalyst over the past several years, enabling the market to galvanise its full investment power. The challenge now is to set the course for a fully fibre France, and to lay the groundwork for an eventually complete transition from the legacy copper network to fibre.

This is one of the core focuses of the latest round of fixed market regulation (2021 – 2023) whose draft decisions Arcep has just notified to the Competition Authority. The aim of these decisions is to ensure that no user is left behind by this switchover from copper to fibre, while ensuring that the state of healthy competition continues, and operators have the right incentives to achieve the transition within a suitable timeline. Arcep is thus urging the incumbent carrier to provide some clarity on the terms and conditions of this switch-off, as soon as possible.

Having fibre products designed specifically for businesses and fibre QoS are two more prime areas of focus. Progress has been made on creating a competitive wholesale market for active FttH products, but there is still some way to go. The goal is to open the way for less expensive plans, and a range of quality of service tiers for businesses, while also creating a truly competitive market. Arcep plans on requiring fibre QoS guarantees for every user, both consumers and businesses, and this from every operator.

After having analysed the opinion of the Competition Authority and the contributions to the public consultation, the draft market analysis decisions will be notified to the European Commission. The review process will be completed before the end of 2020. The decision package will also include price supervision for unbundling, for which an ad hoc draft decision will also be published for consultation in the coming weeks.

Press release

Sébastien Soriano interview in Les Échos

Tomorrow by the numbers

Thanks to 5G, the edge computing market could be worth 43.4 billion dollars in 2027, according to Grand View Research (Les Échos, 18 June 2020). Edge computing refers to the process of deploying IT systems closer to users, e.g. at the cell site level, where they can process data, notably for 5G, rather than it being done on a centralised server or in the cloud. With the added bonus of improved quality of service and better control over these data.

On our radar

Nicolas Guérin, new FFTélécoms president

He took over the leadership of France’s Telecoms Federation (FFTélécoms) on 15 June, for a one-year term. After having joined Orange in 1998, and served as its Secretary-General since March 2018, Nicolas Guérin arrives at a key moment in time – in the aftermath of an unprecedented crisis and at the height of debates over 5G’s impact on health and the environment – to head a telecoms sector federation which is more committed than ever before to building the ‘afterwards’. Arcep extends a very warm welcome to its new president.

News from around the world

ARCEP in Burkina Faso putting users at the heart of the mobile quality of service process

If the quality of mobile telephone services in Burkina Faso has improved, especially after the launch of 4G and optical fibre rollouts, there are still a great many user complaints, which confirm that QoS remains a major challenge for the sector.

On 15 May, the Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority (ARCEP) of Burkina Faso responded to these concerns by launching the Résomètre, an iOS and Android-compatible application that enables users to test the quality of their mobile internet and telephone services, as well as voice quality, either automatically or manually.

The results of these tests, which are transmitted via the application, will feed a common database for all of its users. All of the collected measurements will help supply an overall and more detailed picture of the coverage and quality of the services provided by mobile operators in Burkina Faso.

For the Chairman of ARCEP, Charles Millogo, Résomètre represents the best way for Burkinabés to hold operators to account, giving them no alternative but to take action to resolve the weaknesses detected on their networks.

Arcep likes

Open OS

The contactless mobile payment market is just one more example: by controlling mobile operating systems (OS), Big Tech are the de facto gatekeepers. And are blocking the emergence of new competitors in the mobile payment market… This is the conclusion reached in a memo published in June by the Digital New Deal Foundation, titled “Contactless mobile payment: unshackling smartphones and their users”. Extending the principle of an open internet to include operating systems, which Arcep has been promoting since 2018, appears more pressing than ever before. A principle that was already adopted by the Senate in France, on 19 February, following a bill proposed by Senator Sophie Primas.

Memo from the Digital New Deal Foundation

Bill on guaranteeing consumers’ freedom of choice in cyberspace

Arcep’s proposals for guaranteeing an open internet and restoring users’ freedom of choice

Field notes

“Mon Réseau Mobile” expanded to include QoS measurements obtained by local authorities and national railway company, SNCF

On 10 April 2020, Arcep published mobile QoS measurements obtained by third parties, notably local authorities from the Cher, the Hauts-de-France, Pays de la Loire and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. Data from measurements taken on the SNCF rail network are also available.

Established using the “Regulator’s Toolkit” whose purpose is to ensure a minimum level of quality and transparency for the measurements taken, these data come to supplement the findings of the QoS audits performed by Arcep, and are useful when selecting those areas to be covered under the New Deal for Mobile targeted coverage scheme.

Since the publication of this “Toolkit” in late 2018, Arcep departments have provided technical support to the various players who have adopted it, to ensure the quality and robustness of the measurements they perform. It is the fruit of this shared endeavour that now fuels the “Mon réseau mobile” (My mobile network) site.

Arcep salutes the tremendous work done by local authorities and their elected officials, and by SNCF, providing valuable information to users and public policymakers alike. But this process of opening up the site to measurements that comply with the “Regulator’s Toolkit” is far from over: so who’s next?

Mon réseau mobile
For more information, get in touch!

Well said

« By talking with content providers, we found much smarter solutions for managing network congestion than just treating it with non neutrality, such as slowing the connection slightly without filtering the service. It is much more interesting to leverage users’ capacity to moderate their use and platforms’ ability to handle their content (by decreasing video quality) than to intervene at the network level, which leads to far more detrimental side-effects. Basically, we found extremely intelligent solutions because net neutrality was mandatory. »

Benjamin Bayart, co-founder of French advocacy group, Quadrature du Net, and co-president of Federation of non-profit internet service providers (FDN)
Re-watch the debate: “Networks during the Covid-19 crisis: what did we learn?” hosted by Arcep as part of its press conference on the State of the Internet in France, on 25 June 2020:

Meanwhile in Brussels…

BEREC clarifies its net neutrality guidelines

After performing an evaluation in 2018 on the application of the Open Internet Regulation, BEREC began a review of net neutrality guidelines in early 2019. Eighteen months of collaboration between Arcep and its European counterparts, and an ongoing dialogue with the ecosystem’s stakeholders, culminated in the publication of a revised version of the guidelines on 16 June of this year.

These revisions bring substantial clarifications on several points: the rules for examining zero-rating offers, ISPs’ ability to market internet access services with different levels of QoS, and supervising the add-on services supplied by ISPs (e.g. parental control) alongside their internet access plans. A number of points remain unchanged, such as the limits imposed on ISPs’ ability to inspect the data being relayed over their networks.

Ultimately, these guidelines reflect the conclusions reached by European regulators. Arcep welcomes BEREC members’ adoption of this document. This marks one more step towards guaranteeing net neutrality, ensuring strong protection of users’ rights, while leaving tremendous freedom to innovate

The European regulation
The revised guidelines
Additional information in the 2020 report on the State of the Internet in France

Arcep, telling it like it is

State of the Internet in France: Arcep reporting for duty!

For 450 million European citizens, net neutrality is protected by Europe’s Open Internet Regulation. In France, it is Arcep that is responsible for enforcing this regulation, and for publishing an annual account of the actions it has taken in support of net neutrality, which is the basis for the report on the State of the Internet in France. The 2020 edition of this report provides readers with keys to understanding how the internet works, by detailing how its main components evolved over the course of 2019. It also provides a status report on:

  • Co-construction efforts to improve internet quality of service measurement;
  • Close monitoring of the data interconnection market;
  • The announced exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, making the transition to IPv6 all the more imperative;
  • How devices and platforms influence the internet’s openness;
  • Incorporating digital tech’s environmental impact into regulation.

It is by carefully dissecting the internet’s complex technical chains that Arcep’s teams are able to ensure the network runs smoothly. To analyse and monitor the practices being employed in these different components, it queries the internet’s players in France on a regular basis, covering the various links in the access chain (the report includes some 20 testimonials from market stakeholders). It also relies on an extensive set of tools: the Wehe app to detect possible net neutrality violations, the “Access ID card” API to gain a more detailed understanding of the environment in which users are performing quality tests, the IPv6 task force, co-chaired with Internet Society France, the “Achieving digital sustainability” collaboration platform, and the future Green Barometer. The goal: to ensure that the internet continues to grow and develop, as a common good, where users are the ultimate arbiter.

The 2020 edition also answers the questions that arose during the lockdown, during which market players’ and users’ shared sense of responsibility created a situation where as many people as possible were able to continue to have access to high quality networks. An ongoing mobilisation that Arcep salutes in its 2020 edition.

The report
The summary
Presentation of the report

Photo / Arcep’s “Open Internet” team (from left to right): Samih Souissi, Aurore Tual, Vivien Guéant, Emmanuel Leroux