French raise stakes for fourth licence auction

Media reports in France suggest the French Government will be looking for a higher price than previously announced when it comes to the auction for the country's fourth 3G licence. Initially the Government were looking for EUR206 million for the licence but apparently the French shareholding agency CPT has proposed this figure be increased to EUR240 million.

This is the latest development in the long running saga of the French Government's attempts to issue a fourth mobile licence. Earlier this year it abandoned efforts to allocate the spectrum in a single block to one licensee, at a price of EUR619 million, when no-one showed any interest. Now the spectrum is to be allocated in three separate blocks, with the bidding process expected to start towards the end of July. So far, only one company has expressed interest in the fourth licence, French ISP Iliad, which has indicated it is only prepared to pay EUR210 million for the licence. Virgin Mobile is rumoured to be interested in acquiring the licence but has not, so far, declared its intentions.

The three existing French mobile operators, Orange, SFR and Bouygues, have already expressed their dissatisfaction over the proposed licence price having paid EUR619 million each for their licences in 2001/2002.

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