Arcep orders SFR to comply with Free Mobile site sharing requests

SFR was ordered to open access to its masts to rival French mobile operator Free Mobile without delay by regulator Arcep, in a move that could set a precedent for all of the nation's mobile operators.

Arcep accepted Free Mobile's assertion that SFR had slowed its pace of site sharing dramatically in 2015, and ordered the operator to provide Free Mobile with "full and diligent access" to its sites "within a tight deadline".

The regulator issued the order after Free Mobile complained that SFR was not offering the same level of access to its masts in 2015 as it had up to the end of 2014. Matters came to a head after SFR turned down Free Mobile's latest order requesting access to its masts.

Arcep called on SFR to accept that order and make speedy changes to its access policy.

In a statement, the regulator explained that the decision sets out the terms and conditions for future cell site sharing by SFR and Free Mobile, adding that France's regulatory framework stipulates that "mobile operators must, whenever possible, share passive sites".

Site sharing offers operators a more cost effective means of deploying their networks, while also helping to protect the environment, the regulator stated. "As a result, operators must grant all reasonable requests from other operators to access their sites," Arcep explained, noting that operators have "specific obligations towards Free Mobile" because it entered the market after its main rivals.

Arcep arrived at its decision after concluding that SFR was not responding quickly enough to Free Mobile's request for site sharing, "which therefore tended to rob the regulatory obligations incumbent on SFR".

SFR was also ordered to set out a timetable for opening access to its sites, and to "comply with a minimum rate of production" for such. In return, Free Mobile must also ensure it is meeting its own contractual obligations, the regulator ruled.

The decision affects around 1,000 suburban and rural sites and could be used to guide site sharing deals between other operators in the country, Telecompaper reported.

SFR owner Altice last week said it was dropping the Numericable brand from the mobile operator's name as part of a restructuring of its French communications businesses, Broadband TV News reported, citing local press articles.

For more:
- see this Arcep statement
- view Telecompaper's report
- read this Broadband TV News report

Related articles:
France to kick off 700 MHz auction on Nov. 16
Numericable-SFR slows customer losses with 'back to school' campaign
Orange raises EBITDA target following return to growth in Q3
Bouygues Telecom sees higher profits and sales ahead
Altice's Combes says 'non' to French price war, as Free presses on regardless

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