France’s telecoms regulator Arcep has approved plans to allow the country’s incumbent GSM operators to reuse their 900MHz spectrum allocations for the provision of 3G services. The watchdog also plans to allow the winner of the proposed fourth 3G licence to have access to the 900MHz band too – once it has been returned by the existing 2G operators. Arcep says the spectrum will then be made available for offering 3G services in less densely populated parts of the country in late 2009, before being extended to the rest of the country in late 2012.
The watchdog says the licensing procedure for 900MHz frequencies will differ slightly, depending on whether the fourth licence is sold. If it is, Arcep intends to reallocate the frequencies to allow the newcomer 2×5MHz, leaving the incumbents each with 2×10MHz of spectrum. If however it is not awarded, then the existing licensees will retain their current 900MHz spectrum allocations, while their use of 3G spectrum will be reviewed in March 2011. Plans for the reuse of the 1800MHz band are expected to be reviewed at a later date.