French LTE spectrum auction to raise €2bn, and cover 99% of country (eventually)

Regardless of key details yet to be decided, the French Industry Minister, Eric Besson, has announced that the country's LTE spectrum auction is on schedule to be completed by next summer.

The Minister declined to reveal if minimum prices would be set for the auction--claiming that this vital issue had yet to be debated, but remained convinced that the overall sale would raise around €2 billion for the government.

"We are relatively confident," said Besson. "These frequencies are of very, very high quality."

Although the spectrum pricing remains vague, Besson was clear regarding the LTE coverage he expected operators to achieve. While 3G reception remains patchy throughout much of France, the Minister said he required mobile operators to provide LTE coverage to 99 per cent of the country's population by 2025. The added sting to this expectation was that Besson wanted this level of coverage to be provided by at least two operators.

The Minister said that he expected Arcep to provide him with formal proposals within the next few weeks and, based upon this information, the French government would then issue a call for bids by the end of January or early February.

Seemingly regardless of what Arcep might recommend, Besson stated: "The frequencies will be sold in four lots: two of 10MHz and two of 5MHz."

Likely bidders are already spreading rumours that this level of extensive rural coverage is unnecessary, and are lobbying Arcep, the telecoms regulator, to not push for high auction prices. French operators have long complained that they were overcharged for 3G spectrum which then required a huge Capex level to build the networks.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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