France Telecom admits to network sharing talks with rivals

France Telecom (FT) is holding discussions with its French rivals on the possibility of cutting costs by sharing its 3G network.

FT CEO Stephane Richard told Reuters that talks had been held with its competitors--SFR, Bouygues Telecom and new entrant Iliad, adding "there are discussions but no particular timing [for decisions]."

"I think it is in the interest of all operators to examine opportunities for network sharing given the new realities in the mobile market, and also to rationalise our investments, while keeping our capacity to differentiate ourselves via network quality," he said.

The admission that France's largest mobile operator is willing to share its 3G network with its rivals provides insight into the impact that the entry of Free Mobile has had since it launched its cut-price service earlier this year.

Earlier this year, rumours emerged that SFR and Bouygues Telecom were discussing a network sharing agreement.

Talks were said to be focused on sharing network infrastructure in rural areas in an effort to reduce operating expenses by about 10 per cent. However, the talks appear to have not resulted in an agreement.

While regulators have been concerned that network sharing might lessen competition, Vodafone UK and Telefónica's O2 UK announced in June that they would adopt LTE network sharing to improve coverage and speed up deployment.

Richard has voiced his given support for the current structure of the French telecom regulator Arcep, claiming his company was satisfied with the existing organisation and was relaxed about any merger proposal that could see Arcep combine with the broadcast regulator, CSA, according to Reuters.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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