The French telecoms regulator Arcep says that by midday yesterday, the deadline for applications to operate a fourth 3G mobile network in France, it had received one solitary tender from alternative operator Iliad Group, through its Free Mobile division. The regulator will now assess the application under the ‘beauty contest’ rules laid down and if successful, Iliad has already declared its intention to invest up to EUR1.9 billion (USD2.59 billion) to get the network off the ground.
As reported in yesterday’s CommsUpdate, Iliad has however set a condition on its application. The operator believes ‘the success of the fourth mobile operator’ is dependent on the winner being allowed to make a deferred annual payment of the licence fee instead of an up front one-off payment of EUR619 million. ‘Iliad believes that a single payment of the rental charge represents a barrier to entering the market,’ the company said. The operator is also calling for access to the 900MHz bands alongside 2.15GHz frequencies, and applauds the decision to allocate the winner 5MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz band from end-2009. The move is sure to spark objections from incumbent UMTS operators Orange France, SFR, and Bouygues.