* Orange says meeting coverage commitments, rejects claims
* SFR says aiming for full coverage by year-end
(Adds comment from ARCEP regulator)
PARIS Nov 5 France's consumer watchdog, UFC Que
Choisir, said on Tuesday it had filed a legal complaint against
mobile phone operators Orange France and Vivendi-owned
SFR over marketing practices of their fourth-generation
France's two biggest telecommunications firms, as well as
third-largest operator Bouygues, are racing to build
fourth-generation mobile networks and sign up customers to new
offers featuring five-times faster mobile Internet speeds.
Tests conducted during Oct. 3-17 on the streets of Paris
showed a discrepancy between the 4G coverage that Orange France
and SFR claim to have in the capital and the access consumers
really get to the 4G networks, the French consumer body said.
Orange's 4G network was available in 79.3 percent of Paris,
compared with a 100 percent promise, while SFR covered 74.6
percent. Bouygues came close to matching its 100 percent claim
with 99.4 percent coverage, the UFC Que Choisir report said.
Orange said it was "surprised" by the watchdog's comments,
saying that it was meeting its commitments in terms of coverage
and confirming it was currently the only operator to offer the
maximum speed on its network.
Orange also said it systematically made the distinction
between its H+ and 4G networks, as well as their associated
SFR said in an e-mail that it had announced in August that
it was aiming for 100 percent coverage by the end of the year.
The consumer group is also asking French telecom regulator
ARCEP to set up a body to monitor in real time the roll-out of
4G networks and guarantee the claims made by the operators on
coverage and speed.
ARCEP said it was examining the situation in terms of
quality and coverage, and that it was working on a procedure for
checking 4G coverage zones, with tests on the ground due to
start in the first half of 2014.
Bouygues could not be immediately reached for comment.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing
by Leigh Thomas, Louise Heavens and David Evans)