Paris Metro asks operators to make offers for 3G coverage

All four French mobile operators are expected to make bids to provide 3G coverage of the Paris Metro and RER suburb train lines.

RATP, the operating company for the Metro and RER, has issued a tender inviting Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free Mobile to install a 3G network that will provide data services to smartphone users while travelling on the Paris train network.

The Metro already has a limited 2G service that was installed around 10 years ago which does offer support EDGE in some locations. RATP now wants to offer data services to the 5 million Metro and 1.6 million RER passengers it carries across Paris every day. However, RATP has adopted an approach to offering a 3G service that has caused consternation among the four potential bidders.

The company has, according to a report in Libération, indicated that it will select one operator to install the 3G network under a joint venture agreement. The network would then be leased out to all four operators with RATP gaining an income based upon the data traffic generated by subscribers.

Commenting on the proposed business model, RATP has denied it is holding the operators to ransom. "The millions of passengers will bring them revenue--this has value," said RATP's Marie-Christine Lecoufle. "It is normal for public transport to receive something."

However, there is growing speculation that there will be technical difficulties with providing a reliable 3G within the Metro tunnels, and RATP might come under pressure from the French telecom regulator over fair-competition issues. 

For more:
- see this Libération article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this Zone-Numerique article (translated via Google Translate)

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