France launches procedure for 5G licenses

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government said on Tuesday it had launched a procedure for assigning 5G frequency licenses after it approved specifications proposed by the communications regulator and the financial conditions for the licenses.

The government said in a statement it had fixed the price of a bloc of 50 MHz at 350 million euros ($386 million), and the price of an additional bloc of 10 MHz at 70 million euros.

Junior Economy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said in the statement that the government and French telecoms regulator Arcep had designed a mechanism that makes it possible to sell 50 MHz basic blocs at a fixed price to telecom operators.

In return, operators have strong obligations to deploy their network across the French territory, she said.

“These 5G coverage commitments are much more ambitious than in other European countries and will in future constitute a strong element of our country’s competitiveness,” she said.

The minister said last month that the 5G spectrum would be sold at a floor price of 2.17 billion euros.

Arcep said in a separate statement that it would use frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band and the total allocation would be for 310 MHz of spectrum.

It said it would include four blocs of 50 MHz at a price of 350 million euros, and the rest would be blocs of 10 MHz at 70 million euros each.

Arcep added that payments for the 50 MHz blocs could be staggered over 15 years, and payments for the 10 MHz over four years.

Disagreements between France’s finance ministry and the telecoms authority over the spectrum to be auctioned and the minimum price for the blocs had caused concerns that the process could be delayed.

Reporting by Bate Felix in Paris; Editing by David Evans, Matthew Lewis and Giles Elgood