France has included tough coverage clauses in its 4G auction plans to ensure balanced coverage between urban and rural areas.
Operators vying for a license must commit to an accelerated rollout to rural areas, which regulator Arcep estimates accounts for 63% of France’s landmass and 18% of the population. The regulator states the “unprecedented” regional requirement is necessary to ensure 3G black spots are not replicated in the 4G world, as it seeks to spur local digital development.
Industry minister Eric Besson told journalists the “ priority zone is that which the 3G operators hadn’t covered after eight years,” adding that 4G networks will be the first “that isn’t deployed first in the cities,” Bloomberg reported.
License auctions look set to launch late May or early June, the electronic communications advisory committee CCCE is due to deliver final sale plans based on Arcep recommendations.
Allocations will be limited to 15MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band and 30MHz in the 2.6GHz frequency to ensure “fair and effective competition in the mobile market.” However, the rules also provide for carriers to receive an equal allocation in the 2.6GHz band if four eligible operators apply.
The regulator has also set reserve prices on each lot of spectrum, reported to be a minimum of €2.5 billion, as it seeks to cash in on “one of the State's intangible assets.”