Virgin Mobile France and Numericable discuss joint bid for French 3G licence

The interest in acquiring the fourth French 3G licence is heating up as the MVNO Virgin Mobile France and cable operator Numericable hatched plans for a joint bid. The discussions are said to include the equipment supplier ZTE with respect to the Chinese manufacturer providing the finance to build the network.

This latest move comes only days after the French government suddenly announced a delay in the tendering process to ensure it priced the licence correctly. "We have decided, just to be absolutely sure on this point, to request a new study on the total price of the licence," said French Secretary of State for Industry, Luc Chatel. 

This abrupt halt, given that the government had wanted to speed up the award, was said to have been caused by warnings from the existing French 3G operators not to set the price for this new licence too low. SFR, Orange and Bouygues Telecom--who paid far more than the suggested €200 million for their 3G licences, have threatened legal action if they believe the financial conditions for this fourth licence are deemed to be unfair.

A recent poll in France claimed that over 50 per cent of those interviewed had heard of the country's plans to allocate a fourth 3G network licence, rising to 62 per cent among customers of ISP Free, which has announced its intention to bid. Some 18 per cent said they may switch to the new operator, including 23 per cent of men, 26 per cent of 25-34 year-olds and 31 per cent of Free Internet subscribers.

For more on this story:
Total Telecom and Trading Markets

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