France’s telecoms regulator is open to the idea of consolidation in the country’s competitive mobile market, its chief Sebastien Soriano said, in what appears to be an about-turn from past policy.
In an interview with Le Monde, Soriano said Arcep is not against consolidation provided operators “have a value-creating project for the country, and not for shareholders only.”
He gave the example of the Sprint, T-Mobile US merger in the US, which he said could lead to higher investments in 5G.
France currently operates with four major operators (Orange, SFR, Free and Bouygues Telecom) and consolidation attempts in the past have failed due to stringent regulation.
A report in October 2017 stated that since Orange’s failed bid to merge with Bouygues Telecom in early 2016, the dynamics of the market had changed and companies were now looking to explore other avenues to improve their position rather than engage in M&A activity.
In March, Arcep announced it would remain “very vigilant” if any M&A between the country’s operators was attempted.
The interview with Soriano coincides with a report by Arcep stating operators in France invested €9.6 billion in 2017, €660 million more than the previous year (excluding spending on frequencies).
“Two years ago, I asked operators to break open their piggy banks, to rise to national coverage challenges, and enable France to catch up on the connectivity front. With an investment of €9.6 billion, we are seeing the sector’s growing commitment to making up for lost time, and coming in line with the country’s infrastructure needs,” Soriano said in a statement.
Public consultation on 5G
In a bid to boost 5G efforts, Arcep also launched a public consultation on making the 26GHz band available to kick-start 5G rollouts.
The regulator explained in a statement that to satisfy very high capacity and very low latency imperatives, 5G will need “to use frequencies well above the highest ones being employed today, [for example] in the mmWave bands above 24GHz.”
“In Europe, the Radio Spectrum Policy Group identified the 26GHz band as the pioneer band in this range of mmWave frequencies, for a maiden use of the band before 2020,” the regulator added.
The public consultation will run until 18 June.