Arcep has taken its first decision on the sharing of 3G mobile infrastructure in France, under the remit of Article 119 of the Law of Modernisation of the Economy (LME) Act. In accordance with the law, the regulator conducted a public consultation between 9 December 2008 and 23 January 2009 regarding 3G network sharing and yesterday published its findings. It proposes two solutions should be made available for the sharing of UMTS network facilities going forward. The first type of solution, widely implemented in France, with 20% to 40% of sites shared by the operators and the areas, is the sharing of passive facilities (sharing sites, buildings, towers / masts …). Arcep considers such a solution helps to protect the environment by minimising the visual impact of the deployment of wireless networks. The regulator further believes that the sharing of passive facilities should be actively pursued and developed by operators wherever possible for the deployment of 3G mobile networks.
The watchdog’s second type of solution is seen as more complex as it involves the active sharing of facilities (including the sharing of electronic equipment). Arcep believes there are two solutions for this type of asset sharing between operators:
• The sharing of radio access networks (RANs) – which has already been used by facilities-based operators in other parts of the world, albeit with spectrum in the 2.1GHz band and not the 900MHz band which will be used to serve low density areas in 3G
• 3G roaming – whereby a single network is built and where the host operator allows other operators to make use of its frequency in a given area.
Market participants meanwhile, have indicated their interest in the use of so-called ‘multistandard’ equipment (single RANs), which would allow an upgrade of 2G equipment to 3G and 4G.
The regulator hopes to formulate a framework agreement on 3G sharing by the end of this year.