Report: Bouygues Telecom and SFR firm up network-sharing plans

It's been long in the making, but a planned network-sharing agreement between Bouygues Telecom and SFR appears to be on track after the two companies reportedly signed an amendment to the original contract from January this year.

Citing unnamed sources, French daily Les Echos said the amendment--believed to have been signed last Friday (Oct. 24)--would allow the operators to more precisely define how they will share their respective networks.

The development comes as Numericable moves closer to its goal of buying and merging with SFR to form a new, converged group on the French telecoms market: the cable company this week announced plans to raise its capital by around €4.7 billion ($5.9 billion) through a rights issue to finance the deal, which is now expected to close in the fourth quarter after it received conditional approval from France's competition authority on Monday.

Without giving any precise information on the matter, Eric Denoyer, who will head up the new Numericable-SFR, told Les Echos that the network-sharing deal could now enter into a more concrete phase.

In other words, work can now begin. SFR and Bouygues Telecom are expected to create a joint venture in the coming days to manage the shared assets

Les Echos also noted that it is probably no coincidence that the amendment to the contract with Bouygues Telecom came at about the same time as the Numericable/SFR deal was approved.

Under the terms of the network-sharing deal, SFR and Bouygues Telecom plan to share 11,500 antennas in an area covering 57 per cent of the population and more than 80 per cent of the territory. The objective is to save costs and improve coverage. In a first stage, around 7,000 masts will be eliminated.

In September, France's competition regulator rejected calls by Orange to suspend the network-sharing agreement, saying the deal did not pose an immediate or serious threat to consumers or the sector.

For more:
- see this Les Echos article (in French)

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