The agreement follows the shock market entry of Illiad’s Free in 2012, riding (unfairly the operators claim) on the back of a roaming agreement with the dominant operator, Orange (France Telecom). Since then the French mobile operators have all been locked in a price war and have been unable to hike their charges with the introduction of LTE, much to their fury.
The network sharing agreement will not see the two operators pool their spectrum assets but rather share infrastructure across the less dense parts of their coverage areas, helping them trim their Opex and lower the cost of their introducing LTE. It is believed that they’ve agreed to share only outside the big population areas where around 57 per cent of their subscribers are located and they have established a joint venture to manage the shared infrastructure.
The deal appears to have been carefully calibrated to maintain enough separation and competition to keep the regulator, Arcep, happy. Bouygues and SFR will retain total commercial independence say both companies in a joint statement.
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