On 22 September 2011, France assigned 2.6 GHz licenses to the four existing mobile operators Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange France and SFR. The French regulator ARCEP relied on a "multi-criteria (sealed bid)" approach, basing the awards on what the candidates offered by way of financial bids and commitments towards hosting mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).
ARCEP announced that the award process would increase competition in the mobile market by assigning all of the 2.6 GHz frequencies available to mobile network operators in a balanced way while at the same time encouraging the development of MVNOs.
With the exception of SFR, the operators made commitments to host MVNOs on their networks. The bids and resulting awards were as follows:
- Bouygues Telecom is assigned a frequency block of 15 MHz duplex, for which the company bid the sum of €228,011,012.
- Free Mobile is assigned a frequency block of 20 MHz duplex, for which the company bid the sum of €271,000,000.
- Orange is assigned a frequency block of 20 MHz duplex, for which the company bid the sum of €287,118,501.
- SFR is assigned a frequency block of 15 MHz duplex, for which the company bid the sum of €150,000,000.
The total amount bid exceeded the reserve price of €700 million by bringing in €936 million.
In the coming weeks, ARCEP will issue formal licenses to the winning candidates together with positions within the 2.6 GHz band. The operators' positions will be determined on the basis of what they requested in their applications, with priority based on a combination of their financial bid and strength of MVNO commitment. This calculation resulted in the following order: Bouygues Telecom, Orange France, Free Mobile and, lastly, SFR.
The operators all have proposed to use their 2.6 GHz frequencies to deploy LTE, technology permitting, to increase spectrum efficiency in the face of growing demand and to improve service quality.
Coming up – the next stage in the award of the French 4G licenses will be the award procedure for frequencies in the 800 MHz band, for which the deadline for applications is 15 December 2011.