France Delays 5G Auction Until The Spring

France will be late for 5G services and networks, after it was reported the country will delay its 5G spectrum auction until March 2020.

France had been intending to hold its 5G auction early in the new year, but the three month delay has reportedly been caused by a disagreement between the French finance ministry and the telecoms authority, Arcep.

This is according to Reuters, which cited two sources close to the matter as saying that the disagreement centred over the exact size of spectrum to be auctioned and the auction floor price.

Spectrum auction

Reuters reported that both Arcep and the French finance ministry have declined to comment on the report.

“All positions haven’t yet converged between Arcep and the government,” one of the two sources said. “It shouldn’t take much more time now, but it’s when one gets into the final details of the procedure that difficulties emerge.”

The talks have reportedly postponed the legal process for granting the right to use 5G radio waves, which will be used by carriers to develop networks, the sources said.

This delay will make France one of the last major European nations to deliver 5G services.

The UK for example held its 5G auctions back in March 2018 and raised a total of £1.3bn for the British government.

5G networks began appearing in British cities from May 2019.

Meanwhile the 5G spectrum auction in Italy took place in October 2018 and raised a much more substantial 6.5 billion euros (£5.5 billion).

The 5G spectrum auction in Germany took place in March this year, and it also raised about 6.5 billion euros, although some German mobile operators lambasted the auction as a ‘disaster’ as it was much more expensive than in other countries.

Spectrum cost

Indeed, the amount paid by both Italian and German operators is said to have likely raised concerns at Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad.

Margins at these four French telecoms operators are reportedly already suffering from a protracted price war.

France’s last spectrum auction in 2015 raised 2.8 billion euros in comparison.

France is reportedly seeking to auction off 5G frequency blocs within the 3.4-3.8 gigahertz bandwidth.

A first set of blocs will be granted at a fixed price and a second will be auctioned. The floor price will be “close to 1.5 billion euros,” one of the sources told Reuters.

The rollout of 5G networks are expected to drive the uptake of new technologies such as autonomous driving and internet-connected devices.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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