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French calendar for 4G auctions

11 May 2011

French Digital Minister Eric Besson announced on May 4, 2011 that procedures for the French 4G auctions and a call for applications for the 800 MHz band in particular will be publicly released at the end of May 2011.

French Digital Minister Eric Besson announced on May 4, 2011 that procedures for the French 4G auctions and a call for applications for the 800 MHz band in particular will be publicly released at the end of May 2011. 

The French 4G auctions will offer 30 MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band and 70 MHz of spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band. It is unclear whether the auction for these two bands will be conducted at the same time, but the French telecom regulator ARCEP had previously indicated in 2010 that the procedures should be linked because the 800 MHz spectrum is best for providing 4G services in rural areas, while the 2.6 GHz spectrum is better for urban areas. 

Minister Besson announced that the 800 MHz band spectrum will be divided into four lots, without defining their size. Previously the French telecom regulator proposed to divide the spectrum into two lots of 10 MHz and two lots of 5 MHz each. Regardless of the anticipated lot size, Minister Besson indicated that no single bidder will be allowed to acquire more than 15 MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band and that the 4G operators acquiring spectrum in the 800 MHz band will be subject to strict coverage and rollout requirements. Operators will be expected to cover 90% of the population and each of France’s departments within 12 years, extending to 99% of the French population within 15 years. The 800 MHz licenses also are expected to include national roaming obligations in rural areas.

Minister Besson did not reveal details of other obligations that might apply to 4G operators, but holders of 5 MHz lots are likely going to have to combine their spectrum with other holders of 5 MHz lots in order to create shared (“mutualised”) 10 MHz channels. The auction is also expected to include an incentive that would give extra points to bidders who voluntarily agree to host MVNOs on their networks.  

By contrast, the 2.6 GHz licenses are not expected to include any coverage requirements nor will they include the mutualisation and national roaming conditions. 

Both of the 2.6 GHz and 800 MHz licenses will be technology and service neutral to comply with the new European Union framework that applies to all licenses issued in Europe after May 25, 2011.

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