Concerns raised over 700MHz spectrum sale deadline in France

13 Jan 2014

Gilles Bregant, the director general of France’s Agence Nationale des Frequences (ANFR), has presented his review of the year and the agency’s roadmap for 2014, without reportedly mentioning the planned 700MHz spectrum auction, raising concerns that the tender will not meet its previously set deadline, local news agency Les Echos reports. However, complicating things further, according to the article, the EUR1.4 billion (USD1.91 billion) proceedings from the spectrum sale have already been assigned to the army, as outlined in the 2015 military budget.

According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in June 2013 officials in Elysee, Matignon and Bercy confirmed President Francois Hollande’s decision to allocate frequencies in the 700MHz band to telecom services. The Ministry of Finance, the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office decided to assign the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA) and Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes (Arcep) with the task to auction the 700MHz spectrum to telecommunication services by the end of 2014, in order to ‘generate revenue for the state as quickly as possible, by the end of 2014 or in early 2015’. Arcep is expected to launch an auction for the spectrum band in November 2015, with projections that the tender could generate up to EUR3 billion for the treasury.

The 694MHz-790MHz spectrum band in France is currently used for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) transmissions. According to the CSA’s plans, the platform is set to migrate to MPEG-4 AVC by 2015 and DVB-T2 by 2023. However, should the 700MHz allocation plans go forward, it is unlikely that the DTT platform would be able to offer all television services in high-definition as scheduled.