Arcep rules in Free, Orange backhaul dispute

3 Sep 2015

French telecoms regulator Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes (Arcep) has settled a dispute between Iliad (Free) and incumbent telco Orange France over the price the latter charges for active equipment hosting solutions at its next generation access (NRA) subscriber connection points, fibre concentration points (FCP) and fibre backhaul solutions when they are used to relay traffic from mobile base stations connected to its fibre-optic network. Arcep said that in December 2014 the incumbent introduced an offering for each of the aforementioned solutions and planned on charging an added fee to route traffic from alternative operators’ mobile base stations that were connected via fibre. However, following Free’s challenge of the additional tariff, the watchdog concluded that to change different prices for passive fibre backhaul links depending on their use and the type of network connection being used is ‘counter to the objectives of fair and effective competition’. The regulator said that in order to enable Free – which has relied heavily on local loop unbundling (LLU) on the legacy copper network to connect its mobile base stations – to begin investing in its own fibre rollouts, the cellco must be allowed more efficient use of Orange’s hosting and backhaul solutions. As a result, Arcep ruled that Orange must lift the unfounded restriction measures on its unbundling services.