French telecommunications regulator Arcep confirmed that all four mobile operators in the country are qualified to take part in an upcoming 5G spectrum auction, the regulator said in a release.

At the same time, the regulator officially confirmed it has postponed the process due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The procedure for awarding licenses to use 3.4- 3.8 GHz band frequencies in metropolitan France was launched in late 2019, and all four of mainland France’s national mobile network operators submitted a bid package by the 25 February 2020 deadline.”

In November 2019, Arcep said that it would award frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band and that the total allocation would be for 310 MHz of spectrum. It also said it would include four blocks of 50 megahertz and the rest would be blocks of 10 megahertz.

The French government previously said it aims to raise at least 2.17 billion euros ($2.38 billion) from the spectrum sale.

After having examined the bid packages, Arcep concluded that mobile operators Orange, SFR, Iliad and Bouygues had made the commitments set out in the specifications, and each will be able to obtain a block of 50 megahertz at the end of this procedure.

The regulator said that all four candidates are now authorized to participate in the auction stage, during which the 11 blocks of 10 megahertz that remain available in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band will be awarded.

However, the regulator decided to postpone the process due to the widespread of the COVID-19 virus, which also forced Spain, Austria and Portugal to postpone 5G spectrum auctions.

“The current Covid-19 crisis has made it impossible to perform the physical preparations necessary to hold this auction, which was initially scheduled for the month of April. The auction must therefore be postponed, and the current crisis will dictate the duration of the postponement. Arcep will set the new auction date according to how the current crisis evolves,” the regulator said. “In the meantime, Arcep continues to work on the societal and environmental issues caused by digital technology and these mobile networks’ ongoing development.”

Arcep’s specifications for the 5G auction stipulate that each operator must launch 5G services in at least two cities before the end of 2020. Each carrier should deploy 3,000 sites by 2022, 8,000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 sites by 2025.

Eventually, all of the cell sites must be providing a 5G service using frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band or other bands, according to the regulator.

Arcep also highlighted that it is proposing that 25% of 3.4-3.8 GHz band sites in the last two stages must be located in sparsely populated areas, targeting economic activity, notably manufacturing, excluding major metropolitan areas.

By 2022, at least 75% of cell sites must be capable of providing speeds of at least 240 Mbps at each site, according to Arcep’s initial specifications.

Arcep’s conditions also stipulate the obligation for carrier to deploy 5G to provide coverage in roadways across France.


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