France completes 5G spectrum auction

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French telecommunications regulator Arcep announced that the main auction for 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies for the provision of 5G was completed today, after three days of bidding.

In a release, the regulator said that local operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad committed to pay a total of 2.8 billion euros ($3.28 billion) for a total of 11 blocks of 10 megahertz of spectrum.

Arcep said that said Orange bid €854 million for a total of 90 megahertz; SFR €728 million for 80 megahertz, while Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile (Iliad) each offered €602 million for 70 megahertz.

Arcep also confirmed that a frequency positioning auction will be held in October to determine how these frequencies will be positioned in the 3.4 -3.8 GHz band. The regulator explained that this process will give the winning bidders an opportunity to express their preferences regarding their position on the band.

Following this positioning auction, Arcep will issue the new 5G licenses.

“With these auctions, we have just taken an essential step forward in making the networks of the future a reality,” said Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO of Orange. “We are very satisfied with the way this auction process went; the result is well balanced and encourages operators to invest. With 90 MHz of 5G spectrum, Orange will be able to consolidate its leadership in mobile networks and will develop an efficient 5G network, a guarantee of attractiveness and competitiveness in France.”

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 provide 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.

France is the only one of the five most populous European Union countries where 5G is not yet commercially available. Mobile carriers in in Germany, the U.K., Spain and Italy have launched commercial 5G services in several cities last year.

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