PARIS Jan 13 France's newest mobile operator
Iliad has fallen behind schedule in building its mobile
network, having installed 1,779 antennas by the end of 2012,
short of its target of 2,500 antennas, Les Echos newspaper
The report is likely to spark criticism from Iliad's larger
rivals - France Telecom, Vivendi's SFR, and
Bouygues - which have at times accused the newcomer of
not investing enough to build its network.
The French government is studying the issue to determine
whether Iliad, which has touched off a wave of layoffs and price
cuts at larger competitors, is fulfilling the obligations laid
out in its mobile licence. It had asked France's ANFR, the
agency responsible for tracking radio spectrum usage, to audit
Iliad launched its "Free Mobile" service in January 2012,
sparking a price war with its low-cost plans and taking 6.4
percent of the market by the end of the third quarter.
"Free deployed its network first in less dense areas, then
in cities, where it is harder to install antennas because of
permitting issues," said Fleur Pellerin, junior minister for the
digital economy, in an interview with Les Echos.
"We will be very attentive to the progress of these
deployments because the proper functioning of the market
requires everyone to invest."
An Iliad spokeswoman declined to comment.
The average amount spent by French mobile users fell 13.7
percent to 21.60 euros ($28.83) per month in 2012, according to
data from the telecoms regulator, as the impact of Free Mobile's
lower prices spread.
According to Les Echos, Iliad also put out a request for
bids in December to search for a new supplier of third- and
fourth-generation mobile equipment.
That move may deal a blow to Nokia-Siemens Networks
, which has been supplying mobile gear to
Iliad for the past two years. It could also open the door for
low-cost Chinese equipment maker Huawei to win new
business in France, where it sells gear to SFR and Bouygues.
($1 = 0.7493 euros)
(Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Dale Hudson)