French mobile operator Bouygues Télécom has admitted its 3G network rollout programme is behind schedule, confirming an earlier press report on the matter in Les Echos. The cellco said the telecoms regulator Arcep had ‘established that Bouygues Télécom had not made the full range of 3G services available by 30 April 2007 that were set out under the licence.’ All UMTS licensees in the country were expected to have covered 20% of the population by that date, but Bouygues argues that it failed to meet the deadline because ‘the sale of Nortel’s 3G operations to Alcatel-Lucent led Bouygues Télécom to defer deployment in the zones originally covered by Nortel until a codicil to the original contract was signed with Alcatel-Lucent on 15 March 2007.’ In addition, the operator said its decision to deploy a higher concentration of cell sites across its network had affected the speed of deployment, although it confirmed it intended to comply with the regulator’s revised deadline for 20% coverage of 30 November.
In a separate story, the French ISP Iliad Group, which offers services under the banner Free, has reportedly lost its case to have the bidding process for the country’s fourth 3G licence cancelled, according to Les Echos without citing sources. Iliad had petitioned the courts to force the government to annul the process, review the EUR619 million asking price and reissue a new tender for the licence. However, the French State Council yesterday threw out the case on the grounds that it could not judge on the unfairness or otherwise of a fee that had not formally been fixed.