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3G/HSPA

France Relaxes on 3G

French carriers SFR and Orange France (Paris: OGE) have been thrown a 3G lifeline following the decision by telecom regulator Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART) to relax rules on the deployment of UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) networks.

The regulator has pushed back the deadline for national network coverage due to “external industry setbacks” surrounding the development of the technology.

“We have decided to postpone the deadline from August 2003 to the end of 2004,” regulator spokesman Michaël Trabbia tells Unstrung. “By December 2004 they have to cover a minimum of twelve cities and by the end of 2005 they must have a minimum coverage of 58 percent of the population.”

The country’s third UMTS license winner Bouygues Telecom is to be given even more time to activate its 3G service, in light of a late market entry. “Bouygues will be examined later,” says Trabbia. “We don’t need to make a decision now.”

The French move follows a number of high-profile efforts by Europe’s ruling bodies to relax stringent rules surrounding deployment of the technology. Last year, Sweden’s Post- och telestyrelsen (PTS) reneged on rollout deadlines, while the green light has been given for network sharing in Germany, the U.K., and Spain (see Europe Relaxes on 3G, EC OKs German 3G Net Sharing, EU OKs UK 3G Network Sharing, and Spain Opens Up 3G).

The Italian and Austrian governments have also loosened restrictions on the sale of 3G spectrum, allowing carriers to trade UMTS frequency and pocket the financial return (see Spanish Grasp Italian Lifeline and Móviles Sells Austrian 3G Arm).

UMTS is the third-generation European standard upgrade for existing General System for Mobile communications (GSM) networks that uses a Wideband-Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) air interface to increase the data rate over the wide-area network to a potential maximum of 2 Mbit/s.

— Justin Springham, Sénior Ĕditor, Ĕuropé, Unstrung

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