Martin Bouygues, the chief executive of France’s third largest mobile operator by subscribers, Bouygues Telecom, says he would oppose any plan to award the country’s fourth and final 3G licence to French broadband provider Iliad (Free). According to a report in the French daily newspaper Les Echos, the CEO, whose company holds one of the three allocated UMTS concessions alongside Orange France and SFR, believes that any decision by the market regulator Arcep to award Free the fourth licence would have ‘heavy consequences’ for the industry. Iliad has tried and failed to secure the elusive UMTS spectrum and is looking forward to 2009 when the French government intends to open a new tender for the licence.
In an exclusive interview with the paper the Bouygues’ CEO first criticised Free’s pricing strategy saying that the ISP would be well advised to reduce its margins on ADSL tariffs before considering a move into the mobile sector. He also revealed his scepticism over his rival’s 3G investment plans saying that Free’s proposed EUR1 billion expenditure proposal was too small – unless it intended largely to piggyback on the networks of the other 3G licensees. He also poured water on Free’s ability to circumvent environmental concerns in terms of deploying new network antennas in French towns and finally, he warned that if the government allowed new entrants to enter the mobile market at a knock-down price [i.e. a reduced 3G licence fee], it would be taking on a ‘heavy responsibility’ as such a plan could result in up to 30,000 job losses among the other operators.