France tells four mobile operators to complete ‘white space’ coverage

The French government has told the country’s four telecoms operators to work together to fill in those areas without a mobile signal.

Julien Denormandie, the Minister of Territorial Cohesion, said that the regulator, Arcep, has reached an agreement with the operators to ensure coverage in the so-called “white areas” on the map of France.

“We have engaged in intense negotiations with the four main operators to significantly improve the territory’s mobile coverage,” Denormandie told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche. “This is a historic agreement that will change the daily life of the French.”

He said that French president Emmanuel Macron has set the target of 2020 for high-speed coverage across France.

Operators will spend €3 billion between them on 5,000 new masts, he said. “We will do in three years what we have done so far in 15 years to deploy mobile telephony,” he added.

“In some places, like the current white areas, they will have to pool, and therefore share the equipment. In addition, they undertake to cover the main transport routes, including 30,000km of railway lines, including TER [regional suburban] lines.”

The French state will not contribute to the cost, he added, which will be borne by the three operators – Bouygues, Free, Orange and SFR. “The state gives operators permission to operate [by licensing spectrum],” said Denormandie.

“We could have auctioned the future renewal of these frequencies, but we have favoured land use planning by telling them: ‘We are renewing them in exchange for a massive acceleration of your infrastructure deployments.’” Arcep will be the guarantor of the investment, he said.

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