France completed the auction of six blocks of 700 MHz frequencies after 11 rounds over two days, raising a total of €2.79 billion ($2.98 billion).
Both Orange and Free Mobile won two 5 MHz duplex blocks, while Bouygues Telecom and SFR each gained one block. The operators paid €466 million for each block, beating the reserve price of €416 million.
France's Minister for the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, welcomed the outcome of the auction, noting that the proceeds raised exceeded those obtained in the 800 MHz auction in 2011.
French telecoms regulator Arcep said each candidate's position on the frequency band has yet to be determined, noting that there are four possible positions available. The four winning candidates are invited to submit their placement preferences to Arcep by Nov. 19, along with the price they are willing to pay for their first choice.
The regulator has previously said it would run a sealed bid auction to decide where in the band the different blocks should be positioned, suggesting a further €100 million could be raised from this process.
Orange said it was "proud to obtain two blocks of 700 MHz spectrum", adding that the auction is "an essential industrial investment that will enable the group to reinforce its position as a leader in very high-speed mobile broadband, allowing its retail and enterprise customers to benefit from 2020 and the following decade."
The operator now has over 90 MHz of spectrum in total, and said it will be the only operator in France to hold 30 MHz of low-range "golden" frequencies. The 700 MHz frequencies will be used in particular to reinforce the capacity and speed of its mobile broadband network, particularly indoors and in rural areas, and to prepare for the introduction of 5G once this technology is available.
Free Mobile holds 55 MHz of 3G and 4G frequencies following the auction, and said it "has every intention of continuing to drive the market for the benefit of consumers."
SFR said it now has 25 MHz of low-frequency spectrum and 80 MHz of spectrum assets in total. Bouygues Telecom said its range of frequencies now represents 25 per cent of available spectrum, giving it "the best MHz/customer ratio on the market."
France to kick off 700 MHz auction on Nov. 16
Arcep gives Orange go-ahead to test mm-wave frequencies for 5G
France's 4 operators apply to take part in 700 MHz spectrum auction
Orange CEO sees possible return of consolidation to French market in 2016
France kicks off 700-MHz spectrum auction