The French telecoms regulator Arcep said yesterday that it plans to re-launch its campaign to issue a fourth and final 3G mobile licence via a new competitive tender process. Last year the watchdog tried and failed to auction off the concession when domestic broadband operator Iliad’s sole bid, though its mobile unit Free Mobile, was rejected for failing to meet the financial conditions of the award. In a statement underlining decision no. 2007-0862, adopted in October 2007, the watchdog said ‘the candidature of Free Mobile cannot be retained under the financial conditions currently defined in the law’. As a condition of its bid, Iliad said it believed the success of the fourth mobile operator was 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 new tender, which is backed by the French government, is designed to increase competition in the mobile market by introducing a fourth player to compete with Orange France, SFR and Bouygues Telecom. In March this year Arcep announced it would launch a consultation on the tender process and publish its findings by 30 September. Although it has yet to provide a timetable for the auction process, Arcep has rejected an earlier proposal to split the licence into smaller frequency packages, preferring instead to look ‘at procedures that give a priority to all or part of the frequencies to a newcomer, following similar conditions that governed the previous tenders.’