French operators Bouygues Telecom and SFR have reached an agreement to share network infrastructure.
  
The deal, which the two companies said they hope to complete by 2017, will cover 57 percent of the French population.
 
A joint company will be created to manage the infrastructure, but each operator will retain commercial independence. Bouygues and SFR said it would reduce network costs and provide improved customer service.
 
French telecom regulator ARCEP released a statement saying it welcomed the agreement, but promised to examine the detail of the deal in the coming weeks. 
 
With the French market locked in a price war since low-cost player Iliad launched a mobile service two years ago, operators are looking to cut costs. 
 
Iliad, who has a network sharing deal with Orange, was reportedly interested in joining the Bouygues-SFR alliance after Orange’s CEO Stephane Richard recently addressed the escalating price battle by threatening to end its sharing agreement with Iliad.
 
All four operators are still building their 4G LTE networks. As of 1 January, Bouygues had activated 5,523 mobile antennas capable of handling 4G LTE traffic, Orange 4,244, SFR 1,294 and Iliad 824.
 
The deal is just the latest of many network sharing agreements signed in Europe. 
 
Last year, for example, TeliaSonera’s Yoigo and Telefónica’s Movistar subsidiaries signed a network sharing agreement while Vodafone Greece and Wind Hellas also signed a network sharing agreement in June.
 
Vimepelcom said last week that was looking to increase network sharing agreements after scrapping its final dividend for 2013.
 
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