Today, if you have a phone plan via the operator Free, you actually benefit from Orange’s infrastructure. This has been the case since the beginning of Free, and things should continue like this until 2025. At least, if Arcep, the telecommunications policeman, validates the new terms of this agreement.
In a recent press release, the authority explains that it has received a request from Free to extend the agreement between the two telephone operators for three years. The latter was normally due to end in 2022. The main axis of this partnership is the use by Free of the 2G and 3G networks of the orange operator.
Arcep has not said its last word
If Arcep has not yet studied the loan issue, we can already wonder about the choice of Free, which could have decided to get rid of these two networks by the end of the year. Extending the agreement until 2025 will in any case be the last blow of this partnership, Orange having planned to cut its 2G network on this date (it will be necessary to wait until 2028 for 3G).
If this partnership was initially to allow Free to offer a service of “equivalent quality”, things quickly deteriorated. Indeed, Orange has been implementing since 2016 limitations for the users of their competitor. The latter, which pass over the orange network to go to the internet, are limited to connection levels of 384 kbit/s.
In addition to having a 2G and 3G network that is much less efficient than the others, Free must also pay a large sum of money to Orange to use these two networks. If the figures have never been made public, the addition, in more than 10 years of use, is certainly very salty for Free.
A surprising decision from Free
This choice to extend the partnership between Free and Orange is all the more complicated to understand when you know the level of propagation of Free 3G antennas. If the company has a very small network for 2G (373 antennas against 20,000 for Orange), things are very different when you move to the next generation.
In 3 G Free has almost as many proprietary antennas as Orange (22,755 against 28,585). This agreement is therefore difficult to understand from the outside. Arcep will nevertheless have to render a verdict and give its approval for a 3-year extension.
For their part, the two other operators, Bouygues and SFR, who have a similar agreement, criticize the position of Free and Orange, which have “combined” and which undermine “the proper functioning of the principles of free competition”. Despite the complaints of the two operators, the decision is up to Arcep, which has already validated this agreement twice in the past.