French telecoms regulator ARCEP has submitted draft decisions on the process for 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz frequency band allocations for high-speed mobile broadband, which will be examined by the Electronic Communications Advisory Committee (CCCE) on 30 May. The amount of spectrum that any operator will be awarded cannot exceed a 15 MHz duplex in the 800 MHz band and a 30 MHz duplex in the 2.6 GHz band. Each carrier will be required to cover 99.6% of the population of mainland France, with an accelerated rollout timetable for sparsely populated regions. The French telecoms regulator expects to award licences for the 2.6 GHz band in autumn 2011 and for 800 MHz band in early 2012.
After having received a favourable response from the Parliamentary commission on the digital dividend, on 13 May ARCEP submitted draft decisions on the procedures for allocating the frequencies to be used for deploying ultra-fast mobile broadband (4G) in Metropolitan France to the members of the Electronic communications advisory committee, CCCE (Commission consultative des communications électroniques). The Authority is now making these draft documents available (in French) to the public.
These texts are the result of two years of extensive preparatory work that was carried out in tandem with all of the stakeholders, in particular through two public consultations and a series of individual discussions. The CCCE will examine the texts on 30 May. The decisions will be adopted shortly after the committee has met, and will be submitted to the Government for approval with a view to then issuing a call for applications. Licences for the 2.6 GHz band could therefore be awarded in autumn 2011 and 800 MHz-band licences in early 2012.
The terms and conditions applied to the spectrum allocations are intended to achieve three objectives in a balanced fashion: digital regional development, effective and lasting competition in the mobile market and monetizing the State's intangible asset.
First, digital regional development.
It is a top priority in the allocation of digital dividend spectrum, as provided for in the legislation on reducing the digital divide of 17 December 2009 (known as the "Pintat Act"). To satisfy this imperative, ambitious coverage targets have been set at both the national level - each carrier must cover 99.6% of the population of mainland France - and the departmental level, which is unprecedented in the history of spectrum allocation procedures. In addition, a priority deployment area comprised of sparsely populated regions (18% of the population and 63% of the surface area of France) will be given an accelerated rollout timetable, while measures that encourage carriers to engage in network and frequency-sharing arrangements will make it easier for them achieve this timetable.
The system used to award frequencies must also satisfy the goal, set by the law, of ensuring fair and effective competition in the mobile market.
As a result, the amount of spectrum that any operator will be awarded cannot exceed a 15 MHz duplex in the 800 MHz band and a 30 MHz duplex in the 2.6 GHz band. Moreover, should there be four eligible candidates for the 2.6 GHz-band frequencies, each carrier is guaranteed to receive a 15 MHz duplex if it has applied for this quantity of spectrum. The procedures also include a scheme that is designed to encourage carriers to open their networks up fully to mobile virtual network operators (full MVNOs).
The third objective that ARCEP had in mind when drafting its allocation procedures was the proper monetization of the spectrum, which is one of the State's intangible assets. The result of this is, first, that the amount candidates bid on the frequencies is one of the selection criteria for the single-round combinatorial auction procedure and, second, that reserve prices have been planned for the different lots of spectrum to be allocated in the two bands.