Bouygues, Free first to win permits for 4G sites in France's 700 MHz band

Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile are the first of France's four mobile operators to gain authorisation for 4G sites in the 700 MHz spectrum band.

ANFR, the agency responsible for managing and monitoring mobile frequencies in France, said it awarded authorisations on Apr. 1 to Bouygues Telecom for three sites in Paris and to Free Mobile for three sites in Tarbes. Bouygues Telecom also confirmed that it would commercially deploy its first 4G site in the 700 MHz band in Paris as of Apr. 6.

The sites can be used from Apr. 5, which is the date that France completed its switch over to high definition TV. This forms part of efforts to modernise the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform in order to gradually free up the 700 MHz band for use by mobile communications services. The band will be effectively released for mobile broadband by June 2019.

ANFR also commented that the technical operation to modernise the DTT platform -- which provides free-to-air TV channels to France's households -- had been completed successfully during the night of Apr. 4-5.

Furthermore, the European Commission -- which has been pushing member states to free up the 700 MHz band for use by mobile services -- has approved a French scheme under European Union state aid rules that seeks to financially support households that may be affected by the switch over of their TV services.

Under the scheme, France has set aside a budget of €56.9 million ($64.5 million) that aims to compensate the households most affected by extra costs linked to the reallocation of the 700 MHz band. It provides for aid to buy the necessary equipment, for technical assistance and for maintaining reception of free-to-air TV channels after the reallocation of frequencies.

Meanwhile ANFR also provided its monthly update on the deployment of 4G sites in all frequency bands throughout France. It said that as of Apr. 1, almost 25,000 sites had been authorised for 4G services, which is 3.4 per cent up on March: 8,716 sites for Orange; 7,567 for Bouygues Telecom; 6,134 sites for Free Mobile; and 5,572 sites for Numericable-SFR.

The agency added that 15,854 sites are now authorised for 4G in the 800 MHz band (+5.5 per cent compared to March); 10,381 in the 1800 MHz band (+7.3 per cent); and 17,195 in the 2.6 GHz band (+2.6 per cent).

France completed the auction of six blocks of 700 MHz frequencies in November 2015, raising a total of €2.79 billion.

For more:
- see this EC release
- see this ANFR release on 4G sites (in French)
- see this ANFR release on the DTT changes (in French)
- see this Bouygues Telecom release (in French)

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France raises €2.8B from 700 MHz spectrum auction
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France's 4 operators apply to take part in 700 MHz spectrum auction

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