France to boost competition in mobile telecoms
France will charge 206 million euros ($269 million) for a fourth mobile telecoms operator to offer new-generation services, and will require all licence holders to ensure competitors have access to their networks.
The licence would be awarded in 2010 to enable the fourth operator to start services in 2012, Luc Chatel, the secretary of state for consumer affairs and industry, told parliament on Thursday.
Studies showed a new operator could lead to a 7 percent reduction in mobile telecoms costs for consumers, he said.
Iliad, the parent of French Internet service provider Free, which recently bought provider Alice from Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI), is a declared candidate for the new frequencies.
France Telecom, Bouygues and SFR, owned by Vivendi and Vodafone, already have so-called 3G licences for which they paid 619 million euros each in 2001 and 2006.
The fourth operator would have a third of such a licence, with the other two thirds to be sold in two separate lots.
To deal with an explosion in mobile phone numbers, which had the prefix "06" in France, the telecoms regulator will start attributing mobile numbers starting with "07" from mid-2010.
Gruppo Santander analysts said last month a new licence would have a negative impact of 1.20 euros a share for France Telecom and 1.30 euros for Vivendi.