France’s top four wireless operators have signed on for the European country’s upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auctions, the Autorite de regulation des communications electroniques et des postes (ARCEP) announced Tuesday.
According to the regulatory agency, Bouyges Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR all filed an application by yesterday’s noon deadline.
ARCEP said it will now review the applications and in about a month will post a list of those eligible to participate in the auctions, which will be held in November. ARCEP said it hopes to issue spectrum licenses before the end of 2015.
The call for auction applications originally went out in early July of this year, when ARCEP announced it would auction off six 2×5 MHz blocks of spectrum in a multi-round ascending model. The government regulator has said the goal of the auction is to “monetize intangible State assets” to the tune of at least 2.5 billion Euros. To that end, a reserve price of 416 million Euros per spectrum block has been set.
The auction comes as ARCEP and France’s operators look to upgrade their wireless networks and deploy more efficient services after a report in May found that 70 percent of French territory and 20 percent of its population were still not covered by 4G services. In July, ARCEP announced that it had cleared operators to refarm the 1800 MHz band, used in the past for 2G services, for 4G services starting in May of 2016.
France is just one of several countries worldwide that will be engaging in a spectrum auction in the next year. Earlier this month, Mexico announced plans to auction 80 megahertz of its wireless spectrum in January, just ahead of a similar spectrum auction expected to take place in the U.S. in March. Germany and Canada have also held spectrum auctions in the past several years.
Over the weekend, Sprint, which had taken a large role alongside T-Mobile in advocating for a larger spectrum reserve in the U.S. auction, shocked the wireless community by announcing its withdrawal from the proceedings. The company said the move would allow them to focus on improving the network to capitalize on the significant spectrum holdings it already has.