French LTE spectrum auction hits the skids

It seems that US greenfield operator LightSquared isn’t the only telco business on the wrong side of spectrum interference difficulties this week: French telecom/media construction services company Bouygues looks set to rain on the country’s LTE spectrum auction parade, with allegations that the service blocks television broadcasting services in some parts of the country.

According to reports in Le Figaro, Bouygues Telecom has sent an official complaint to France’s Council of State arguing that the suggestion that LTE licensees pay compensation to digital terrestrial TV (DTT) viewers whose services are interrupted is illegal and brings the country’s LTE tender process into question. According to Bouygues, the French government’s terms and conditions regarding the sale of spectrum could cost operators between €500m and €1.7bn. The company says that the French government should be responsible for picking up the bill for interference; the spectrum auction is expected to raise in excess of €2.5bn, following the government’s decision to up its reserve bid level in May this year.

French digital economy minister Éric Besson launched the tender-bidding process for the country’s LTE spectrum earlier this month. Operators have until September to submit their bids. Higher-end 2.6GHz spectrum will be divided into four lots and awarded in October, while the desirable 800MHz band will be split into 14 lots before being allocated in 2012. Among the terms of the auction, successful bidders will be obliged to cover 98 per cent of the population within 12 years, with 99.6 per cent coverage required within 15 years for those operating in the 800MHz band. Besson has said that coverage for rural areas should be a focal point; with this in mind, two blocks of 15MHz in the 800MHz range were made available.

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