Implementation of new mobile coverage targets

Paris, 2 August 2018: Acting on a proposal from Arcep, today the Government is issuing an invitation to tender with a view to reallocating 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz band frequencies, which are currently being used by 2G, 3G and 4G mobile networks and whose licences are set to expire between 2021 and 2024. Arcep is also writing the commitments that operators have made for 2018 to 2021 into their current mobile licences, to make them legally binding.

On 14 January 2018, the Government announced an historic agreement - reached on the basis of proposals from Arcep, and as part of a demanding dialogue with mobile operators - which seeks to ensure the availability of high standard mobile coverage for every person in France. This "New Deal for mobile" marks an unprecedented ramping up of national mobile coverage targets. Acting on a proposal from Arcep, the Government thus made achieving regional consistency a priority in its assignment policy. This means that, rather than focusing on the financial aspect, the Government decided to direct operators' focus to investment by including coverage obligations whose ambition is unprecedented.

Frequency reallocations in 2021 and 2024: making consistent regional development a priority

Arcep recently submitted a proposal to the Government on the terms and methods for reallocating 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz band frequencies, whose licences are set to expire between 2021 and 2024. This follows through on the public consultation on the proposal that Arcep held in April and May, to which it received 15 responses, which are also being made public today.

Today, Bruno Lemaire, France's Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Delphine Gény-Stéphann, Secretary of State to the Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State to the Prime Minister, in charge of Digital Affairs, Jacques Mézard, Minister of Territorial Cohesion, and Julien Denormandie, Secretary of State to the Minister of Territorial Cohesion, are issuing the corresponding call for tenders.

The new obligations that will be written into future licences will make it possible in particular to:

  • Increase the pace of targeted coverage improvement programmes through the creation of a "mobile" window, requiring every operator to deploy 5,000 new 4G cell sites, some of which will be shared, in those areas identified by the Minister responsible for electronic communications;

  • Improve reception quality nationwide, and particularly in rural areas. The new baseline standard applied to operators' obligations will be that of "good coverage";

  • Upgrade all existing 2G and 3G sites to 4G, which will mean bringing 4G to more than a million additional people in 10,000 municipalities in France;

  • Accelerate the pace of 4G rollouts along 55,000 km of roadways;

  • Achieve ubiquitous indoor coverage, notably by requiring the operators who committed to do so to provide their customers with a voice over Wi-Fi service.

Tenders must be filed before 2 October 2018 with Arcep which will be conducting the award procedure.

Mobile operators' commitments for the period running from 2018 to 2021 are now legally binding and enforceable.

At operators' request, Arcep has also amended their 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz band licences, to render the commitments they made at the start of this year legally binding.

Arcep adopted four decisions adding new obligations for Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR, notably with the implementation of a "mobile" window, to achieve ubiquitous 4G coverage and to provide a voice over Wi-Fi product under certain conditions.

Starting in July 2018, Arcep will thus have the power to verify that these obligations are being met. Any failure of compliance may, if necessary, result in penalties.

These new, unprecedented and enforceable 4G mobile coverage obligations will make it possible to improve mobile connectivity in a way that will quickly become noticeable for the people of France.

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