France’s nationwide WiMAX operator is sole bidder for last 3G license

Free, the subsidiary of Iliad, a French telecom operator that owns the only nationwide WiMAX license, is the sole bidder for the 4th and last 3G license. Free has already deployed WiMAX in a few locations, mainly to meet regulations and license obligations. Their WiMAX-3G strategy is very interesting indeed.Free, the subsidiary of Iliad, a French telecom operator that owns the only nationwide WiMAX license, is the sole bidder for the 4th and last 3G license. Free has already deployed WiMAX in a few locations, mainly to meet regulations and license obligations. Their WiMAX-3G strategy is very interesting indeed.

Below are a few remarks from Philippe Llau of TDF France on Iliad/Free, WiMAX, 3G, FTTH and competition in the French telecommunications market.

WiMAX

Iliad/Free has a nationwide WiMAX license (3.5 GHz) and they have already rolled out WiMAX in a few areas, mostly Normandy or western France where former Altitude (a company acquired by Iliad) was strong. For information go to www.ifw.fr. Iliad will explore technical options such as incorporating WiMAX in their popular Freebox offer (as they did with Wi-Fi). They are also expected to do WiMAX trials in dense urban areas.

3G license

Philippe thinks their application for the 4th 3G license is clever. They have no other challengers: NoosNumericable , greenfield investors and Orascom from Egypt expressed some interest but in the end did not apply for a license which will cost ‚Äö?ᬮ619 million (US$818 million), plus 1 percent of revenues. This is the amount paid by the current 3G operators (Bouygues, Orange, SFR) for their licenses. ARCEP had planned to award the 4th license via a beauty contest rather than auction. The criteria for winning the license is based on coverage (80 percent of France), services to be offered and speed of completion. Having only one bidder makes ARCEP’s decision much easier.

There are rumors that Bouygues will be in trouble because a new entrant such as Iliad/Free will make life even more difficult than it is in this highly competitive mobile market. Despite the summer holidays, the rumor mill is operating at full blast with rumors about Iliad being bought by investors or perhaps an Iliad-Bouygues union. And wouldn’t it be interesting if Iliad/Free transformed their Freeboxes into some kind of 3G home cell or femtocell.

Fiber to the home

Iliad has filed a lawsuit against France Telecom over FT’s fiber duct monopoly. Iliad wants full unbundling, arguing that incumbent fiber ducts are a facilit?¬© essentielle (basic and critical facility).

Indeed, ARCEP is expecting a duct sharing proposal from France Telecom next spring. By going to court, Iliad is accelerating this process, helping ARCEP and again taking the initiative in battling a powerful incumbent.