French broadband firm Iliad has emerged as the only bidder for France’s fourth 3G license. French telecoms regulator, ARCEP has confirmed that the application was submitted by Free Mobile, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iliad group.
Iliad previously bid for the license in 2007 but ARCEP rejected the offer. ARCEP will now examine the application to check that it meets the eligibility criteria with the expectation that the license may be awarded by year-end.
France’s three incumbent mobile operators are fiercely opposed to Free’s entry into the market and are still calling for a reviewhttp://www.telecomseurope.net/content/frances-3g-license-auction-attracts-fresh-disputes of the tendering process, arguing that the lower fee to be paid by the aspirant operator is anti-competitive.
The regulator has settled on a reserve price of €240 million, less than half of the €619 million paid by the current carriers for their 3G licences. The regulator argues that the fourth license is for a smaller chunk of radio spectrum and is being offered in a market with three dominant and established 3G network operators.
Iliad has stated that it plans to invest around €1 billion in the development of its Free Mobile branded mobile network.
Iliad founder Xavier Niel has complained that French mobile prices are strikingly similar, and has foreshadowed that he will cut call charges in half. An Exane BNP Paribas analyst has estimated that Iliad could lift operating profit by 50% while taking 10% off income at Orange and 17% at SFR.
“If Free Mobile's project is selected, it will make the French mobile market more dynamic, bring about a high level of investments in France, and create many jobs,” Iliad said in a statement.