French operator Bouygues Telecom has revealed it will switch on its LTE network in the “next few weeks”. The firm will use 2.6GHz spectrum to deploy the service across eight cities, CEO Olivier Roussat told local press.
The announcement follows last month’s declaration from the nation’s telecoms regulator ARCEP that Bouygues Telecom will be allowed to refarm its 1800MHz spectrum for LTE services. Bouygues Telcom will be permitted to switch on the LTE1800 network from October 1, 2013 although it must relinquish a portion of its spectrum holding before it does so.
The move drew opposition from the operator’s rivals complaining of being put at a competitive disadvantage, in a similar manner to when operator group EE was given clearance by Ofcom to deploy its LTE service ahead of competitors in the UK by refarming its 1800MHz spectrum last year, according to James Robinson, associate analyst for regulation and policy at Ovum. However, the rivals’ reactions are suprising, since unlike in the UK, all four of France’s operators have been able to offer 4G commercially since 3Q12, after a spectrum auction was held in 2011 for 4G spectrum.
“ARCEP concluded that there was no reason for Bouygues’ 1800MHz license to continue to restrict the operator’s use of the band to GSM technology,” explained Robinson.
“In light of current spectrum assignments, the regulator believes that a more balanced allocation of the 1800MHz band would help to ensure equality between operators and the conditions for effective competition,” he added.
However, the operator aims to launch its LTE service prior to October 1, using its 2.6GHz spectrum.
“We will announce in a few weeks 4G offers in cities where we have already deployed [the technology] on 2600MHz,” Roussat told French newspaper Le Figaro.
The LTE service will first be rolled out in Lyon, Lille, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Biarritz, Douai and Parisian regions Issy-les-Moulineaux and Vanves.
According to the report, Bouygues Telecom will price 4G at a premium “of about €5″. Apple’s iPhone 5 will soon operate on LTE2600 network as Apple will offer an update that will offer iPhone 5 with 4G on Bouygues’ network, Roussat confirmed.