French Competition Authority refuses to intervene in network sharing agreement

11 Dec 2013

Bruno Lasserre, the president of France’s competition watchdog, the Autorite de la Concurrence, has reportedly refused to intervene and facilitate the accession of Iliad (Free) to the potential network-sharing agreement with fellow French cellcos Bouygues Telecom and SFR. According to local news agency Les Echos, the executive stated in an interview: ‘It is not up to the Competition Authority to define which partners are suitable for an alliance. Our role is to establish the founding principles. But we are no kingmakers. It is a mistake if [Iliad] hopes I will intervene to force a ‘marriage’ of the three [companies].’

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in November 2013 Iliad sent a letter to Vivendi’s telecoms arm SFR, rival mobile operator Bouygues Telecom, telecoms regulator Arcep and the Autorite de la Concurrence requesting a permission to join the ongoing discussions between the two companies to share parts of their mobile infrastructure in France. Iliad executive reportedly stated: ‘A deal between two of the three operators of incumbent mobile networks that does not leave room for the fourth operator could be a major de-stabilising factor.’

According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Bouygues confirmed that it had resumed talks with rival SFR over the possibility of sharing their network infrastructure in rural areas of France back in December 2012. The two companies had been in network sharing discussions since early-2012, although those negotiations ended without a deal being reached. In July 2013 SFR and Bouygues entered in exclusive negotiations to share parts of their mobile infrastructure. Both companies hope to come to a definitive agreement by the end of 2013, and the arrangement will allow them to increase their geographic coverage and generate significant savings in the deployment of network equipment. However, both companies are reportedly aiming to preserve completely independent commercial presence.