French telecoms regulator the Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes (Arcep) has adopted two decisions, authorising SFR and Orange France to refarm the 1800MHz band for Long Term Evolution (LTE) use from 25 May 2016. According to Decision no. 2015-0975, Orange France will hold 2×20MHz in the aforementioned band (1710MHz-1730MHz/1805MHz-1825MHz) from 15 March 2016, down from its current holding of 2×23.8MHz. Meanwhile, Decision no. 2015-0976 states that from 25 May 2016 SFR will have 2×20MHz in the band (1730MHz-1750MHz/1825MHz-1845MHz), down from 2×21MHz in July 2015).
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the four mobile operators – Orange France (then FT-Orange), SFR, Free and Bouygues Telecom – paid a total of EUR3.57 billion (USD4.71 billion) for the allocation of 800MHz/2600MHz spectrum for 4G LTE services at end-2011. While rival operators SFR and Orange France opposed Bouygues’s request to use the 1800MHz spectrum for LTE, it was tentatively approved by Arcep in March 2013, provided the company relinquish some of its spectrum according to a specific timetable. Bouygues was allowed to start offering 1800MHz LTE from 1 October 2013, while the 5MHz of spectrum it returned was awarded to Free Mobile in December 2014.