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ARCEP to allow 3G services on GSM spectrum

28 февраля 2008

France's telecoms regulator Wednesday announced it will sanction mobile spectrum refarming, permitting Orange, Bouygues Telecom and Vivendi's SFR to reuse GSM spectrum for 3G services.

"3G coverage is now relatively extensive in Metropolitan France – SFR reports covering over 70% of the population and Orange France should reach this degree of coverage by the end of 2008," said ARCEP in a statement.

ARCEP to allow 3G services on GSM spectrumHowever, the watchdog insisted that in order to extend 3G coverage even further it is important that frequencies in the 900 MHz band be reused.

"These frequencies have better propagation properties and penetrate better inside buildings than frequencies in the 2.1GHz band in which 3G currently operates," said ARCEP.

"The reuse of 900 MHz frequencies will help 3G reach a degree of coverage similar to that of GSM, and offer consumers mobile access speeds of several hundred kilobits per second," added the regulator.

As a result, spectrum in the 900 MHz band currently used for GSM services will now be authorised for use by
Orange, SFR and Bouygues for UMTS-based services.

Furthermore, the regulator reiterated the obligations facing the three operators for providing sufficient coverage.

Under the terms of their 3G licences,
Orange and SFR are required to cover 99.3% and 98% of the population respectively by 21 August 2009.

Bouygues, which plans to launch 3G services by the end of 2009, will need to ensure network coverage to at least 75% of
France's population by December 2010 in order to comply with the terms of its license.

"ARCEP considers it essential that as many users as possible have access to mobile third generation services.
Access for all French residents to 3G is an important stake in regional development," said ARCEP.

Similar plans were unveiled last September by
U.K. telecoms regulator Ofcom, which proposed that O2 and Vodafone give up their sole rights to the 900 MHz frequency they use for 2G services so that it may be re-auctioned for use as 3G spectrum.

The watchdog said spectrum refarming would improve and extend 3G coverage in-building, as well as in rural areas, a move the GSM Association has been calling for worldwide since June 2007. 

ARCEP also said Tuesday the regulations it has adopted will apply should a new 3G player enter the market.

The French government has been pushing for a fourth mobile license following ARCEP's October rejection of Iliad's application on financial grounds.

At the time Iliad proposed that the payment of the €619 million license fee be staggered, a move denied by the regulator. The issue has since escalated, with
France's highest administrative court coming out in favour of a staggered payment earlier this month, paving the way for the government to start a new licensing process.

Источник: Total Telecom

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