French president hints at 3G licence reservations

16 Sep 2009

The president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has voiced concerns over the proposed allocation of a fourth and final 3G licence, Reuters reports. The president is quoted by unnamed parliamentary sources as saying: ‘I am rather sceptical and reserved on the choice of a fourth mobile phone operator. Because the lowest price is not necessarily the best one.’

In August this year the government launched the tender for a fourth 3G mobile operator licence and confirmed the asking price of EUR240 million (USD330 million) in the official government gazette. However, France Telecom (Orange) immediately responded by saying it would contest the licence fee with the European Commission. FT is aggrieved that the amount being asked for the unallocated licence is only around a third of the EUR619 million which Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom had to pay in 2001 and 2006 respectively. The deadline for bid applications has been set at 29 October 2009, with the award of the licence expected to follow around eight months from that date.

Iliad, the parent company of French internet service provider Free, has confirmed its intention to bid for the licence. A joint bid from Virgin Mobile and Numericable could also emerge but Free is widely considered as the only credible candidate.