French LTE spectrum auction to be launched by May

Bouygues Telecom has entered into exclusive negotiations with rival Free to sell its mobile phone network and portfolio of frequencies for “up to €1.8bn”

French telecoms regulator ARCEP has said that the country’s LTE spectrum auction will be launched before May this year. The terms of the sale, which is expected to raise €2bn, are expected to be finalised shortly and ARCEP has said that it wants to award the spectrum before the end of this year.

The impending auction has seen France Telecom rivals SFR, Bouygues and Iliad pressuring the regulator to limit the amount of spectrum any one operator can buy.  They are also lobbying for spectrum sharing obligations in an effort to prevent market leader France Telcom from building an unassailable position in Europe’s third-largest telecoms market.

Commentators have pointed to France Telecom’s comparatively deep pockets as giving it an edge should the auction process be an unrestricted one. The French government is understood to favour an easing of requirements for spectrum capping and network sharing, keen as it is to maximise profits from the sale. This has led to several clashes with the regulator, causing the current process to be delayed.

France Telecom has yet to comment on the auction process but in comments submitted to the regulator last year, it warned against the imposition of caps or spectrum sharing requirements.

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