On December 17 2002 the French Telecommunications Regulatory Authority settled a dispute over mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) between Tele2 France and Orange France, effectively prohibiting the introduction of MVNOs into France.

An MVNO is an organization that offers mobile subscriptions and call services to customers, but does not have a radio spectrum allocation itself. In order to provide these services, it must therefore pay mobile network operators for the use of their mobile networks and facilities.

However, in France the three mobile operators (SFR, Orange and Bouygues Télécom) have been reluctant to receive virtual operators on their network. As a result, in July 2002 Tele2 France requested that the authority force Orange to allow Tele2 France to use its network as an MVNO. Tele2 France sought a decision forcing Orange to provide a service under an 'extended' MVNO model, thus maximizing Tele2 France's use of Orange's facilities. In particular, Tele2 France claimed that access to Orange's network should be granted on the basis of Tele2 France's right to interconnect with Orange's network.

The authority ruled in favour of Orange by stating in its decision that the access requested by Tele2 France was not currently covered by either EU law or French legislation on interconnection.

However, the authority did not exclude completely the introduction of MVNOs in France. It specified that the implementation of the EU Access and Interconnection Directive (2002/19/EC) into French law could mean the eventual integration of MVNO-type activities into the mobile phone market.

For further information on this topic please contact Robert Follie or Carole Arribes at Lovells by telephone (+33 1 53 67 47 47) or by fax (+33 1 53 67 47 48) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]).