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Tensions in the corporate telecom market

Candidates for the acquisition of operator Kosc will have until January 27 to submit their offers. PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

What will happen to Kosc? In bankruptcy, the troublemaker of professional telecoms, launched almost four years ago with the blessing of the public authorities to shake up the Orange and SFR duopoly on the corporate market, is looking for a buyer. A call for tenders was about to be issued on Thursday, December 12, by the court administrator. Applicants for the operator’s takeover will have until January 27 to submit their offers.

In the telecoms world, the shock wave is palpable. “Customers are worried. More than 65,000 businesses are at risk of being deprived of the Internet if Kosc cannot find a buyer. The digital transformation and the competitiveness of VSEs and SMEs is in danger assures Laurent Silvestri, president of the Club of network and telecoms leaders (CDRT), a business group which brings together nearly 200 professionals from the sector.

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The Senate business delegation and the digital group in the Senate are also alarmed. Fearing that a hasty end to Kosc plunges the market into a duopoly, parliamentarians call on the state to react. “We have, on several occasions, alerted the regulators and the ministerial offices concerned, without having an answer”, observes Senator Elisabeth Lamure (LR), who discusses the risk of” a flashback “ likely to harm the digitization of businesses.

“Deafening silence” of the authorities

Kosc’s adventure, however, had started under good auspices. This wholesale operator – which markets Internet accesses to alternative operators, who then resell them, with added services, to businesses – was born out of the combined wills of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (Arcep), the Competition Authority and the Bank of the Territories “To introduce competition in a professional market dominated by Orange and SFR”, recalls Senator Patrick Chaize (LR). The arrival of Kosc in the game was to bring down market prices, often inaccessible to smaller companies.

But the machine got stuck following a dispute with SFR relating to the sale of the copper network of Completel (property of SFR), then of the announcement of the decision of the gendarme of competition – giving reason to SFR – in September. Dropped by Caisse des Dépôts, its long-time shareholder and supporter, the cash-strapped operator had to surrender.

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