country's telecoms regulator hopes that the move, combined with
new high-speed Internet capacity targets announced on Thursday,
will improve connectivity for around 65 million people living in
France, which lags its European peers.
"For a long time our focus was to make sure French people
benefit from attractive prices. Now that's done, the prices are
good. Our priority now is to make sure our country is
well-connected," Sebastien Soriano, head of regulator Arcep,
told Reuters in an interview at his office in Paris.
France ranked 16th among the 28 European Union (EU) member
countries for growth in Internet connectivity over the past year
and below the average growth rate, according to February figures
from the European Commission.
Soriano acknowledged the country still has a long way to go to
improve. He calculates that France's high-speed mobile network
needs up to 10,000 new antennas within three years, bringing the
total to 75,000. By then, about 25,000 of these antennas should
have shifted to high-speed "4G" technology.
In fixed-line, about six million French households currently
benefit from fixed high-speed services. The telecoms industry
should add between 7 and 8 million households to that number
within three years and about 80 percent of the total should be
able to choose their operator. Official data put the number of
French households at 28 million in 2012.
The targets are not binding, but Soriano said he planned to open
up access to operators' data showing which had the
best-performing systems so that customers get visibility on
which has the best network and where.
Neither Soriano nor France's competition authority sets prices
in France, but price competition has been fierce because
anti-trust rules have made consolidation difficult.
A recent attempt to ease the price war triggered by the arrival
in 2012 of Iliad's Free Mobile low-cost services failed with the
collapse three months ago of merger talks between France's
number one telecoms operator Orange and Bouygues Telecom.
(Editing by Andrew Callus and Alexander Smith)
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