The French government has announced a timeframe for the planned auction of Long Term Evolution (LTE)-suitable frequencies in the 700MHz band, stating that the tender will be initiated in the second half of 2015. The process could generate up to EUR2.1 billion (USD2.6 billion) for the treasury, domestic news source Le Figaro reports. Although the allocation of the spectrum, which is currently used for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) transmissions, is scheduled to take place in December 2015, Prime Minister Manuel Valls clarified: ‘The actual transfer will take place between 1 October 2017 and 30 June 2019, with the exception of few areas where [the frequencies] could be used by April 2016.’ All four domestic cellcos – Orange France, Numericable-SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad (Free) – are expected to bid in the auction.
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. Previously, 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 of auctioning the 700MHz spectrum for telecoms use by the end of 2014. Addressing the concerns of DTT broadcasters that the spectrum reallocation would interfere with plans to migrate the DTT platform to MPEG-4 AVC by 2015 and DVB-T2 by 2023, President Hollande said in October 2014 that France needed an audiovisual sector that could broadcast broadly, effectively and securely, adding: ‘This is the objective of transferring the 700MHz band to the telecom sector. The state will ensure that the available resources are guaranteed for broadcasting’.