Regulators back Bouygues and SFR network sharing agreement
26 September 2014 | Kavit Majithia
Bouygues Telecom and SFR will be allowed to share its mobile network despite an appeal from rivalling operator Orange to France’s competition regulator.
The competition authority said the network sharing agreement would not pose an immediate or serious threat to consumers in the sector, but the regulator will still conduct an in-depth investigation on the deal.
Both companies plan to share mobile towers outside urban areas of the country, and Orange said it plans to appeal the decision.
“Nothing put forward by Orange indicates that there is a serious or immediate impact that would require the suspension of the agreement or its extension to 4G roaming, which remains limited in scope,” the competition authority said in a statement.
The partnership agreement between France’s second and third largest players includes an agreement to create a joint company, operating 11500 mobile towers, which covers 57% of the population.
As part of the joint venture, they will also share cell sites and antennas, but not spectrum or core network elements, with the hope of generating cost savings of €300 million by 2017-2018.
With regulatory support, the companies will also take down tower infrastructure, however there could be further delays considering Orange’s reservations.
Orange claims that the fact SFR customers will be able to roam on Bouygues 4G network is detrimental to its mobile business, as SFR has been slow it build out its own 4G offering.
“The decision today is just a first step,” said an Orange spokesperson to Reuters. “Orange will appeal; the competition authority will continue in an in-depth investigation; and Orange also reserves the right to file further complaints if it sees SFR abusing the 4G roaming clause.”
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