Aware that mobile coverage cards do not 100% reflect the reality of subscribers, Arcep is launching a public consultation with a view to raising its standards. It could ask operators for 98% reliability.
As part of its policy of “data regulation”, the regulatory authority for electronic communications, postal and press distribution (Arcep) has set up the monreseaumobile.fr site, which collects data from mobile coverage of the four major French operators. On this portal, it is thus possible to compare the extent of the Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free networks with a distinction between communications per se (voice and SMS) and mobile Internet, the latter aspect allowing besides a distinction between 3G and 4G connections.
To supply its cards, Arcep relies on data transmitted by operators, field checks being carried out to ensure their relative reliability. Some 2 million measurements were carried out in 2018 for this purpose, but the regulator is nonetheless aware of the limits of the device. “From the creation of” My mobile network “, the Authority recognized that its cards could be improved,” says Arcep today. Consumer associations and local elected officials notably expressed their dissatisfaction, “insisting on a gap between the maps and the reality perceived on the ground” .
Towards overall reliability of 98%
Up to now, the regulator has validated the data sets provided by operators as soon as they have reached 95% reliability. In other words, 5% of the areas supposedly covered according to the maps could actually be white areas. In order to improve its tool, Arcep is now planning to climb to a 98% threshold and is launching a public consultation to this effect.
More specifically, the telecom gendarme is thinking of demanding a reliability threshold of “98% for any area of more than 1,000 square kilometers, and 95% for any area of more than 50 square kilometers” . 50 km2 represents approximately the range of a transmitting site in good conditions. By way of comparison, the city of Paris covers an area of more than 105 km2. The Authority specifies that these thresholds would be valid for voice / SMS services as well as for data.
For voice / SMS services, it also proposes “to require operators to publish cards combining 2G and 3G, in addition to the” only 2G “cards published today” . Remember that some smartphones are also capable of making calls over the 4G network (VoLTE), but that not all models on the market are necessarily compatible, hence the restriction to 2G and 3G networks.
Stakeholders with opinions to submit to the regulator have until March 6 to make their comments and suggestions. After examining these comments, Arcep will modify the decision governing the publication of data on mobile coverage and is already announcing that “these new requirements will come into force in the third quarter of 2020”.