Orange says the decision has been made due to ‘a divergence in deployment strategy’

Back in February 2020, reports began to circulate in the French media that Orange, the largest operator in France, and Iliad’s Free Mobile, were assessing an agreement to share and build tower infrastructure across rural areas throughout the country. At the time, however, neither of the operators made announcements confirming any agreement.
By November, Iliad CEO Thomas Reynaud noted that the operator was “quite open minded when it comes to network sharing”, noting that “Orange is the usual suspect due to the fact that Bouygues and SFR already have a partnership on 70% of the population.”
Now, however, Orange has released a statement saying that it is withdrawing from network sharing discussions with Free, which had seemingly been underway since France auctioned 5G spectrum back in October.
“Following the 5G auction that took place last October, Orange and Free have held discussions with a view to reaching a mobile network sharing agreement in France. Given a divergence in deployment strategy, Orange has decided to end these discussions. For Orange, the quality of its networks is a priority. Its mobile network in France was ranked best mobile network in France for the 10th consecutive year by ARCEP. The Group is also fully committed to the deployment of fibre in France, providing two-thirds of the 24 million connectable homes that have already been built,” read the brief statement.
Meanwhile, across the Channel, the UK’s operators are increasing their infrastructure sharing schemes, with Vodafone, Three, and O2 all agreeing to build and share 222 new telecoms masts in rural areas across the country. The move comes as part of the first phase of the £1bn Shared Rural Network scheme, which will see all four of the UK’s major operators boost rural coverage through greater cooperation.
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