France’s Council of State has reportedly rejected an appeal filed by Bouygues Telecom seeking to stop the allocation of frequencies for a fourth 3G operator on the grounds it would be detrimental to service quality. Under the plan the regulator, Arcep, would request the three incumbents – Bouygues Telecom, SFR and Orange France – to hand over an equal portion of their spectrum to allow the deployment of the fourth operator. Bouygues had argued the regulator’s plan was ‘illegal’ but the State Council rejected the appeal maintaining that ‘this difference in treatment is objectively justified by the need to allow the future owner of the fourth licence to deploy its network in satisfactory condition and the fact that Bouygues Telecom has to deal with additional traffic lower than the other two operators’.
In a separate development, French MVNO Virgin Mobile is understood to be ‘seriously studying’ the possibility of applying for the fourth mobile licence in France. Its CEO Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux is quoted as saying the call for applications will be launched soon. ‘We are currently studying the matter seriously… We are almost obliged to do so as the fourth mobile operator [in terms of numbers of customers], with growth prospects that we have,’ he said. ‘The price of the licence (EUR206 million) is still quite cheap,’ he added. Virgin Mobile had a total of 1.13 million subscribers as at 1 April 2009, a market share of 1.95%. Its goal is to sign up two million users before the end of 2010.