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France Frees 3G Spectrum

11:40 AM -- France's regulator Arcep has given the green light to Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s Orange and SFR to go ahead and use their 900 MHz spectrum for 3G services. Bouygues Telecom will also be allowed to deploy UMTS at 900 MHz when it wants to. (See France Refarms 900 MHz and UK Operators Brace for Spectrum Struggle.)

While the "refarming" situation in France is straightforward now, things can still get messy. When the last remaining 3G license is allocated, the three GSM operators will each have to hand back 5 MHz of their 900 MHz spectrum so that the new 3G licensee can use it. (See France's 3G Giveaway and No 3G License for Free.)

As Ovum Ltd. analyst Julien Grivolas puts it in a research note, "These measures create further complexity for Orange and SFR in terms of their network planning and re-engineering -- particularly in areas where the GSM spectrum is heavily used such as dense urban areas."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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