* New proposals concerning access for SMEs
* Orange has been investing heavily in FTTH network
* No new obligations in consumer segment (Adds comment from Orange CEO)
By Mathieu Rosemain
PARIS, July 11 (Reuters) - French telecoms regulator Arcep announced plans on Tuesday to impose several new obligations on Orange to open up competition in the corporate telecoms market for high speed fibre-based services but stopped short of changes to regulations in the bigger consumer market.
The regulator noted Orange’s dominance in the French corporate market and said small and medium-sized (SMEs) companies needed to have a “real choice” in fibre, which offers higher Internet speeds than the copper-based ADSL alternatives.
“The development of a fibre mass market for micro enterprises and SMEs is a vital part of the French economy’s digitisation,” Arcep said.
“Arcep has noted Orange’s very strong position in the business market,” it added.
New measures will include imposing an obligation on Orange to allow alternative service providers to re-sell its products to the business market, and controlling pricing for wholesale offers to businesses to avoid “excessive” and “predatory pricing”.
Orange Chief Executive Stephane Richard told a business conference in Paris that the change would increase the competitive pressures it faced, but expressed relief at having avoided a tougher regulatory regime elsewhere.
“For us the main thing is there is no asymmetric regulation of Orange in fibre-optics. That has been respected,” he said. The regulatory changes are set to be implemented from January 2018 onwards, and will be formally adopted after a public consultation, with the final decisions due before the end of November, Arcep said.
Orange, formerly the state-owned monopoly France Telecom, has invested heavily in developing a “fibre to the home” (FTTH) network in France, becoming the market leader in this service.
But rivals SFR Group and Iliad have also entered the race and are spending billions building their own fibre networks. (Editing by Andrew Callus, Greg Mahlich)