Orange and Free Mobile extend roaming agree to 2022

Orange and Free Mobile extend roaming agreement to 2022

06 April 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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Orange and Free Mobile have extended their national roaming service agreement for an additional two years.

According to French telecom regulator Arcep, the original agreement entered into back in 2011, included the provision of roaming until 31 December 2020. On 24 February 2020, Arcep received documentation extending the roaming contract until 31 December 2022.

The roaming agreement specifically relates to Orange's 2G network in the metro region and Free Mobile's right to roam as provided for in the 3G authorisations of incumbent operators, as well as to the 3G network of 'Orange, on a commercial basis, allowing Free Mobile to offer its services under fair conditions.

Since 2015, Arcep has had the power to ask mobile network operators to modify their network sharing contracts in order to meet certain regulatory objectives. As a result, Free Mobile and Orange amended their agreement in 2016 to include the gradual termination of roaming by reducing speeds until 31 December 2020.

The addendum received in February of this year included various technical terms of the extended phasing out of the roaming service. These include:

  • A cap to the maximum upload and downloads speeds for Free Mobile roaming customers at 384Kb. In addition, no increase has been made to the capacity of the interconnection links between the Free Mobile core network and Orange.
  • The addendum includes the financial terms for during the period 2021-2022 with the aim of encouraging "the reduction in the number of Free Mobile customers using the Orange 2G / 3G network".

This extension follows a request from Free Mobile, driven by the “impossibility for Free Mobile to catch up with the standard of market coverage which has clearly increased with the Crozon mutualisation agreement and the New Deal obligations” despite “a very voluntarist deployment”.

In addition, "the need to benefit from 2G coverage in the same way as other mobile network operators" taking into account, on the one hand, a number of 2G subscribers "in slow attrition" and the impossibility for Free Mobile to deploy a 2G network in the short term due to the lack of frequencies and, on the other hand, the use of 2G by other operators as fallback technology "in certain situations, particularly indoor or during peak hours". 

Earlier this month, Orange has issued new bonds for a total notional of 1.5 billion.