France increases LTE auction reserve, prioritises rural coverage

The French government has given the go-ahead for operators to submit bids for LTE spectrum. Within the bidding guidelines the government has increased the reserve bid level from €2 billion to €2.5 billion, and made the installation of LTE base stations in rural areas a priority.

The telecoms regulator, Arcep, has stated that the more desirable 800MHz band will be divided into 14 lots, but will not be awarded until early in 2012, while the 2.6GHz frequencies will be split into four blocks and awarded in October.

By dividing the 800MHz band in so many parts, the government is attempting to stop heavyweights like France Telecom from dominating the bidding for this valuable spectrum, and hopes that Bouygues Telecom and new-comer Iliad will have adequate finances to enter the fray.

Arcep has also set ambitious coverage targets with successful bidders being required to cover 98 per cent of the French population within 12 years, rising to 99.6 per cent within 15 years for those with 800MHz spectrum. For those with 2.6GHz licences, the coverage requirement is only 75 per cent of the population within 15 years.

The catch for any bidder will be providing rural coverage, which comprises 63 per cent of the country but only 18 per cent of the population. Arcep has called for operators to make this a priority, as has been seen in Germany, and is looking to assist operators with measures to encourage network and spectrum-sharing agreements to meet rural deployment schedules.

For more:
- see this Telegeography article
- see this Telecom Paper article (sub. req.)

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