French mobile operator SFR and rival Bouygues Telecom are reportedly close to finalising an agreement to share their mobile networks, and the companies’ respective management teams are expected to vote on the plans on 31 January 2014, local newspaper Les Echos reports. Further, the source claims that ‘the companies will also launch a new bidding process for their network equipment and rationalise their existing contracts’. Both SFR and Bouygues Telecom have reportedly declined to comment on the matter.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Bouygues confirmed that it had resumed talks with rival SFR over the possibility of sharing their network infrastructure in rural areas back in December 2012. The two companies had been in network sharing discussions since early-2012, although those negotiations ended without a deal being reached. Further, in November 2013 French telecoms provider Iliad, which operates its mobile services under the Free brand, allegedly sent a letter to SFR, Bouygues Telecom, competition watchdog the Autorite de la Concurrence and telecom’s regulator Arcep, requesting a permission to join the ongoing discussions. An Iliad executive reportedly stated: ‘A deal between two of the three operators of incumbent mobile networks that does not leave room for the fourth operator could be a major destabilising factor’.