Iliad’s Niel slams Orange call for higher unbundling charges, demands faster transition to fibre

Iliad Telecom boss Xavier Niel has slammed Orange’s call for an increase in unbundling fees for its copper network and called for an acceleration in the pace of the closure of the legacy network.

Interviewed by a French senate committee yesterday, Niel said Iliad was one of the biggest investors in fibre in terms of the proportion of revenues ploughed back into the network.

He said that Orange’s upping of the cost of unbundling would retard the rate of take-up of fibre in France.

Orange has called for an increase of €2 in the regulated unbundling fee, much higher than the €0.39 recently permitted by regulator ARCEP.

Niel said that increasing the cost of accessing copper would serve to maintain Orange’s monopoly in regions without effective competition.

Niel said that that ARCEP should force the pace on the closure of the copper network, describing the conditions currently imposed on the incumbents as “not satisfactory”. He said that any increase in the fee for unbundling would make the situation worse.

Niel’s intervention follows a spat last year between Orange CEO Christel Heydemann and the regulator over what Heydemann considered to be an unfair threat of a sanction over delays in the deployment of Orange’s fibre network.

Heydemann had also contended that ARCEP’s resistance to allowing an increase in unbundling fees meant it was impossible for Orange to make a return given increases in the cost of maintaining the copper network.

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