France Puts Fixed Price on 3G Mobile Licences

PARIS (06/08/2000) - France has abandoned plans to auction the rights to operate 3G (third-generation) mobile telecommunications networks, instead setting a fixed price for the four licenses on offer.

French national telecommunications regulator the Autorité de Regulation des Télécommunications (ART) will review applications from would-be network operators and select four to receive licenses, Laurent Fabius, French minister of economy and finance, told the country's National Assembly on Tuesday.

Licensees must pay a fee of 32.5 billion francs (US$4.8 billion) for a fifteen-year license to operate a UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) network, Fabius said. This will raise $19 billion for treasury funds, some of which the French government will spend on improving provisions for retirees.

The successful operators will pay half the fee within two years of receiving the license, with the rest to be spread over the next thirteen years.

In the U.K., the auction of five UMTS licenses raised some $35 billion for state funds. [See "3G Mobile Auction Finally Ends at $35B," April 24.]ART will draw up a schedule of conditions by the end of this month and will call for applications by the end of this year, Fabius told the assembly. The selection process will take place during the first half of 2001, with commercial UMTS services due to be launched by Jan. 1, 2002.

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