French telecoms watchdog Arcep has adopted a series of decisions, updating the regulatory framework for the fixed broadband sector following the completion of a market analysis programme that lasted more than a year and included dialogue with operators, the competition authority and the EC. According to Arcep, the decisions are aimed at facilitating the migration from the legacy copper network to fibre whilst maintaining pro-investment regulation and energising the business market.
The watchdog notes that it is aiming to complete the switchover from copper to fibre within the next ten years and to that end has opened the possibility of a commercial switch-off prior to the technical switch-off, with the new regulations setting the terms and conditions for doing so. Although fixed line incumbent Orange France has confirmed its intention to begin deactivating the copper network from 2021, Arcep notes that the telco’s plans are ‘far from fully established’ and has encouraged the operator to provide clarity on its plans as soon as possible.
The decisions include several asymmetric regulations that apply only to the provider with significant market power (SMP), namely Orange France. These were the definition of several relevant markets, including obligations for the SMP, and the imposition of maximum tariffs that Orange can charge for access to its copper local loop during the period from 2021 to 2023. The relevant markets are: a separate civil engineering market, for the wholesale provision of access to physical civil engineering infrastructure for the deployment of communications networks; wholesale access provided at a fixed location (Market 3a), including unbundling of the local copper loop and sub-loop and passive offers for the provision of optical fibre; wholesale central access provided at a fixed location (Market 3b); and wholesale quality access provided at a fixed location (Market 4), including offers specifically intended for corporate end user sites or network elements.
Arcep also adopted a decision to implement symmetric regulation of the fibre market, with the regulator having determined that there is healthy competition in the segment. Highlighting the progress in the fibre market, the regulator noted that the availability of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) products has risen from 11% in 2017 to nearly 88% in Q2 2020.