Share networks, or be forced to, says French telecoms regulator

French 3G operators have been given an ultimatum by the country's telecoms regulator, Arcep, to reach a network-sharing framework by the end of this year. If no agreement is reached, Arcep says it will impose sharing conditions on the industry.

In addition to having this year-end deadline possibly forced upon them, the operators also have been instructed to produce a plan outlining geographic areas where sharing can occur by 15 June. These areas must include, according to Arcep, those featured in a 2003 national plan to extend GSM coverage, and should consider the possibility of sharing 3G installations in zones where 2G services are not available. Adding a touch of "humour," the regulator also said the framework agreement must anticipate the possible entry of a new 3G network operator on equitable terms.

The operators, Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom, already are said to be sharing 20 to 40 per cent of their passive installations, such as buildings and masts, but have now to investigate how they will share base stations, either via RAN sharing or 3G roaming.

Separately, Arcep has confirmed France's WiMAX deployments are far behind schedule with--as of the end of December, only 19 per cent of the WiMAX site deployments planned for June 2008 having been completed.

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