Orange, SFR Top Up on 3G Spectrum

The long-running saga of France’s 3G spectrum allocation process appears to have finally come to an end after Orange France and SFR hoovered up the last remaining frequencies.

French regulator Arcep said it has accepted the applications submitted by the two mobile operators for the two blocks in the 2.1GHz frequency band that were left over following the allocation of the fourth 3G license to Free in January this year.

SFR is to buy the 5MHz block for €300 million ($366 million), while Orange submitted a bid of €282,098,871 ($344.5 million) for the 4.8MHz block. Together with the 5MHz block acquired by Free in January, Arcep said it will raise more than €820 million ($1 billion) from the sale of the remaining 2.1GHz frequencies.

Free also submitted a bid for one of the last two blocks, but Arcep said it selected SFR and Orange on the basis of their bid amounts as well as their commitments to improving hosting conditions for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in France.

Arcep said both Orange and SFR have chosen Commitment Level 1 for hosting MVNOs, which means they will “grant all reasonable demands for access to their networks” and would allow existing MVNOs to amend the terms of their contracts to benefit from the new commitments. Neither operator opted for Levels 2 and 3, which would have entailed greater technical and economic commitments to MVNOs.

Arcep said it will allocate the spectrum to the two operators in the coming weeks. SFR and Orange already own 14.8MHz each of the 2.1GHz frequency band in France. Bouygues Telecom also has a 14.8MHz block.

— Anne Morris, Special to Light Reading

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