* Deal expected before the end of the year
PARIS, July 22 (Reuters) - French mobile operators SFR and Bouygues Telecom on Monday said they had entered into exclusive talks to share part of their mobile networks.
The deal, which would help reduce costs, should be reached before the end of the year, the two companies said.
The move emulates similar initiatives elsewhere in Europe as in the United Kingdom between mobile operators Vodafone and Telefonica.
The network sharing push is a response to the fierce price war triggered by the arrival of Iliad’s low-cost operator, Free, into the mobile market 18 months ago.
The French government said in statement in response to the talks between the two operators that network sharing was particularly suited for “when margin levels are more constrained,” as is the case now.
French mobile operators have little choice but to share part of their networks to cut costs as European competition authorities have signalled their opposition to any further consolidation in the market.