French regulator to rule in Sept on rivals' network sharing deal

PARIS, June 12 Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:33am EDT

PARIS, June 12 (Reuters) - France's top competition regulator Bruno Lasserre said he would issue a decision in September on Orange's challenge to a mobile network sharing agreement between two of its competitors Vivendi's SFR and Bouygues.

"It is expected by September," said Lasserre at a telecoms conference on Thursday held by newspaper Les Echos.

Bouygues and SFR, who signed the agreement in February, expect to reap 300 million euros ($408.45 million)a year in cost savings by 2017-2018 from a project to share mobile network antennas outside urban areas.

The carriers will create a joint venture company to operate 11,500 mobile towers covering 57 percent of the population, eliminating 7,000 towers between them.

They will share cell sites and antennas but not spectrum or core elements of the network, which they say will allow them to offer differentiated services to consumers.

Orange has argued that the agreement is anti-competitive because the operators will no longer fight in the market on the basis of their network quality. ($1 = 0.7345 Euros) (Reporting by Leila Abboud and Gwenaelle Barzic)

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