ARCEP accepts Free Mobile’s application

Paris, 18 December 2009

Through its Decision No. 2009–1067, dated 17 December 2009, ARCEP has accepted the application submitted by the company Free Mobile, in response to the procedure launched on 1 August 2009 for the award of a licence to operate a third generation (3G) mobile telephony system in Metropolitan France.

This call for applications was a follow-up to those issued in 2000, 2001 and 2007. Three of the four 3G licences were awarded at the outcome of the first two calls for submissions: to SFR and Orange France in 2001 then to Bouygues Telecom in 2002. As the call for applications carried out in 2007 produced no results, a new procedure for awarding a licence for 5 MHz in the 2.1 GHz band was launched by the French government on August 1st 2009.

An application was submitted by the company Free Mobile, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Iliad group. In accordance with the planned procedure, ARCEP examined Free Mobile’s application in three stages: an admissibility stage, which involves verifying that the applicant has satisfied the formal requirements; a qualification stage, during which the Authority verifies that the candidate is eligible to be awarded a licence and, finally, a selection stage, during which the content of the applicant’s submission is examined to determine whether it sufficiently satisfies the criteria listed in the call for applications. The analysis of the application submitted by Free Mobile, and the commitments made by the company, are presented in detail in the summary attached to Decision No. 2009–1067 which was made public today. Free Mobile’s application was accepted in consideration of all of the applicable criteria.

The arrival of this new player is expected to have a favourable impact on the mobile telephony market’s momentum and, more generally, be a positive element in the development of electronic communications services in France.

Free Mobile plans on offering consumers clear and innovative services at competitive prices, which are particularly designed to help facilitate access to the mobile Internet.

Free Mobile has also taken numerous commitments, on commercial, contractual and technical levels, with respect to hosting mobile virtual network operators (MVNO). Among other things, it has committed to hosting full MVNOs on its network.

Finally, Free Mobile has committed to launch its services within two years, and to cover at least 90% of the population with its 3G network within eight years. This means that, starting in 2012, consumers in France will have a wider selection of solutions to choose from.

These new offers are also expected to stimulate existing operators whose current market status is established and sound.

ARCEP will award the frequency licence to Free Mobile in January 2010. The remaining spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band will be allocated through a new call for applications, which will be issued in the first half of 2010 and be open to all players. Finally, with a scheduled launch in the second half of 2010, ARCEP is preparing the allocation procedures for the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz-band spectrum which will enable the deployment of new generation very high-speed mobile networks.