France's 3G Giveaway

12:33 PM -- France's 3G operators -- Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s Orange France , SFR , and Bouygues Telecom -- are not going to be happy about the French government's decision today to change the price of the last remaining 3G license, to say the least.

Dow Jones reports that the French Senate agreed to allow the government to amend the financial conditions of the fourth and last 3G license.

That means the operator that wins this last 3G license will probably pay a lot less than the existing 3G operators paid for their licenses. Iliad (Euronext: ILD) will most likely bid again, and Neuf Cegetel Group (Euronext: NEUF) may also be interested.

Last month, French regulator Arcep rejected Iliad's application for the 3G license -- when the company was the only bidder -- because it did not meet the financial requirements. The price of the license, set by French law, was €619 million ($917 million), plus 1 percent of revenues, which is what the other three operators paid. (See No 3G License for Free, Iliad Applies for License, and ARCEP Invites 3G Bids.)

Arcep is eager to allocate this license because it is critical to its plans for 2G spectrum refarming at 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. (See Spectrum up for Grabs in Europe.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Bargain Editor, Unstrung

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