French government to impose tougher obligations for 700MHz auction

17 Jan 2014

Arnaud Montebourg, France’s Minister for Productive Recovery, and Fleur Pellerin, the country’s Minister for Digital Economy, have reminded mobile operators of their obligations in terms of investment and jobs in the country, local newspaper Les Echos reports. Arnaud Montebourg said in a press conference at Bercy: ‘Operators use radio frequencies that are in the public domain. We are therefore entitled to set obligations. Every time we assign a frequency, [the recipients] will be accountable.’ Further, the government plans ‘to impose rigid specifications […] and obligations in terms of jobs and investment on the operators’ for the anticipated allocation of frequencies in the 700MHz spectrum band, currently used by the army. It is understood that the obligations could include ‘relocation of call centres’ and ‘investment in rural areas and small towns.’ Fleur Pellerin also pointed out that a merger between telecoms operators is excluded ‘for now’, as it will have negative impact on the French economy. Meanwhile, operators have reportedly raised concerns that the government’s move to impose further obligations and condition is a form of ‘double punishment’, and the state needs to lower the price of the frequency blocks.