The French competition authority, Autorite de la Concurrence, has reportedly refused a request from domestic telecoms operator Orange France to suspend the network sharing agreement between its rivals Bouygues Telecom and SFR, the Wall Street Journal reports. Orange filed a complaint against the two operators in April 2014, allegedly looking for the agreement to be suspended until a detailed analysis of its impact on the market had been conducted. The Autorite de la Concurrence, however, declined to suspend the agreement, saying that there was ‘no serious and immediate threat to the interest of the sector, consumers or the plaintiff company.’ Orange is now planning to appeal the decision before the Paris appeals court with Nicolas Laederich, the head of antitrust at Orange, cited as saying: ‘We lost one small battle in a much larger fight.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, although Bouygues and SFR had been in talks over the possibility of sharing their network infrastructure in rural areas of France since early 2012, it was not until July 2013 that the two companies entered exclusive negotiations. The two operators finally sealed the deal in end-January 2014, subject to regulatory approval; under the terms of the agreement, Bouygues and SFR will create a joint venture company to operate 11,500 mobile towers covering 57% of the population in underserved areas, eliminating 7,000 towers between them. They will share cell sites and antennas but not spectrum or core elements of the network, which they say will allow them to offer differentiated services to consumers. Following the strategic agreement, Bouygues and SFR expect to reap EUR300 million (USD416.61 million) a year in cost savings by 2017-2018.