The French telecoms watchdog Arcep is readying itself to announce the introduction of a 5% to 10% cut in France Telecom-Orange’s (FT’s) unbundling rate, effective 1 January 2012. According to a report in La Tribune newspaper, quoting someone familiar with the situation, as a result of the move – an announcement on which could take place after 15 December – the incumbent’s unbundling rates will be reduced to the EU average of around EUR8.50 (USD11.33) per month, from the current EUR9.00. Given that there are around 8.32 million unbundled lines in mainland France, the former monopoly is poised to lose annual revenues of around EUR50 million, while rivals such as Iliad (Free) and SFR – which have ADSL bases of five million and 4.7 million respectively, mostly unbundled – will realise financial gains of around EUR20 million each, and even Bouygues Telecom which has around a million subscribers, will save several millions of euros. La Tribune notes however, that the cut in the rate is unlikely to be passed on to end users, although altnets could look to use the financial gain to further investment in their own fibre-optic deployments. Although the savings will be passed on, Arcep said ‘It’s a boost, it smoothes the slope’ of future investments in fibre. This is the first time the regulator has announced a cut in France Telecom-Orange’s unbundling rate since it unveiled plans for a 3% reduction in 2009.