French budget provider Free Mobile has informed its subscribers that 3G speeds will be significantly restrained from 1 September 2016, following the inking of an agreement with French telecoms watchdog the Authority of Regulation for Electronic Communications and Posts (Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes, Arcep) in regards to ending all national roaming agreements by 2020. Free Mobile currently uses the 2G/3G networks of market leader Orange France to supplement its own in-deployment infrastructure, though in June the two companies agreed to start phasing out Free’s roaming over the networks of Orange from January 2017. News source France Mobiles reports that under the glide path, transmission speeds for Free’s subscribers roaming over Orange’s networks will be reduced to 5Mbps/448kbps (downlink/uplink) from 1 September to 31 December 2016, and the speeds will drop further to 1Mbps/448kbps in 2017/18. Another reduction, to 768kbps/384kbps, will follow in 2019, before the transmission rates reach 384kbps/384kbps in 2020.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in January 2016 Arcep opened a public consultation on its draft guidelines on mobile network sharing by proposing a gradual termination of all roaming agreements in metropolitan France. In regards to the Free/Orange deal, the regulator proposed that the termination process should start before the existing contract expires, with 3G roaming between Orange/Free scheduled to end between 2018 and 2020. For 2G (voice, SMS and data) services the termination date should be between 2020 and 2022.