The French government is investigating France Telecom Orange after the operator's network collapsed for nearly 24 hours.
The countrywide failure, which stopped Orange customers from making calls or sending text messages, has prompted the French government to call for an audit of critical national infrastructure. Of note, the investigation will cover all French mobile operators and has sidelined telecoms regulator ARCEP, according to Reuters.
Raymond James Analyst Stephane Beyazian estimated that the weekend's outage would cost France Telecom Orange between €10 million and €20 million in repairs and compensation to customers, but the longer-term impact of a heavier government hand on the sector was hard to quantify.
"We expect even more intervention going forward as the government pressures telecoms regulator ARCEP to focus less on fostering competition and more on protecting jobs," he told Reuters. "This is likely to translate into favouring the big operators more than the low-cost challenger Iliad."
In a poorly disguised dig at Free Mobile, Fleur Pellerin, the minister for small business and the digital economy, indicated that government policy on telecoms should not focus just on reducing prices via more competition. "We want the issue of employment to be taken into consideration more than it has, whereas (ARCEP) has long put the emphasis on the consumer," said the junior minister.
The cause of the network breakdown is not known, but FT Orange said it might have been a glitch in the software it uses to help to track mobile phones and identify subscribers' details to allow calls and texts to be made. This could have caused users to repeatedly make calls and flood the network with signaling traffic.
With regard to compensating its 26 million customers, La Tribune reported that Stéphane Richard, CEO of FT Orange, said that customers would be given a day (probably in September) when they will be able to make calls and send text messages for free. Customers will be notified via SMS of the details.
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