French telecoms regulator Arcep has no objection to an amended mobile network sharing agreement regarding the ‘Antilles-Guyane’ region – comprising Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana – signed between Digicel and Free Caraibe on 16 December 2020, following an in-depth investigation of the contract. The agreement was originally inked in February 2020 and involved the establishment of a joint venture called Madiacom which will own and operate the shared RAN the duo plans to implement over two years, with temporary cross-sharing of their low-band frequencies (800MHz and 900MHz bands) and, in the interim, the hosting of Free Caraibe temporarily on Digicel frequencies. In December 2020 the two companies notified Arcep of an amendment to their RAN-sharing agreement, stipulating that the transitory phase during which Free Caraibe is authorised to roam on Digicel frequencies would be gradually ended on a territory-by-territory basis, and would be terminated within a maximum of two years of the start of the process. Nevertheless, should technical issues arise when implementing the RAN-sharing, the parties could extend this period by an additional year (at most), through a mutually agreed upon contractual amendment.
In addition, Digicel and Free Caraibe sent a letter to Arcep setting out the objectives of their partnership in terms of improving mobile coverage and quality of service (QoS) in the overseas territories, and pledging to provide the authority with annual progress reports. These goals are based on reaching a target of more than 500 cell sites by 2025, the deployment of a new backhaul infrastructure for the Upper Maroni area (French Guiana), and the installation of at least two additional sites on the RN2 secondary road in French Guiana by the end of 2022.