Paris, 30 July 2015
The 1800 MHz band is one of the two frequency bands that have historically been used by 2G networks. It is now due to progressively be reused more efficiently by 4G services. For this to happen, the terms of mobile operators' licences need to be amended to lift the 2G-only restriction they contain. Making the band technology-neutral, to prepare for its reuse by 4G services, is in keeping with an international move in this direction, and one that is supported by European directives which have been transposed into French Law.
To prepare for this transition, in March 2013 ARCEP published a guidance document on introducing technological neutrality in the 1800 MHz band: on the one hand by the 25 May 2016 deadline set in the text and, on the other, before this date if the parties that hold licences in that band so request. This document defined a roadmap for allocating the band, which includes redistributing the band between four 4G operators, as opposed to the three original 2G operators.
ARCEP put these guidelines into effect when Bouygues Telecom requested that the technological restrictions listed in its licence be lifted. As a result, the operator's licence was amended to allow it to deploy 4G networks in the 1800 MHz starting in October 2013. In exchange, Bouygues Telecom was required to relinquish a portion of its frequencies, which were then allocated to Free Mobile on 1 January of this year.
In keeping with the guidance document, and after having discussed the matter with the concerned operators, today ARCEP is adopting two decisions amending the terms of Orange and SFR's licences.
The decisions authorise Orange and SFR to deploy 4G networks in the 1800 MHz starting on 25 May 2016. They also stipulate that the two operators will relinquish a portion of their frequencies by that date. These decisions render fully operational the roadmap that ARCEP published back in March 2013, and open the way to allocating a supplementary 10 MHz duplex in the band to Free Mobile. On 25 May 2016, the arrangement of the 1800 MHz band will be amended as follows:
Orange and SFR retain the option of requesting that restrictions attached to the 1800 MHz band be lifted earlier than planned, if they want to begin using it to deliver 4G services before 25 May 2016.
All documents are available only in French
Guidance document published in March 2013
Decision amending the terms of SFR's licence (pdf - 395 Ko)
Decision amending the terms of Orange's licence (pdf - 317 Ko)
Decision of 2013 amending the terms of Bouygues Telecom's licence (pdf - 253 Ko)
Decision authorising Free Mobile to operate in the 1800 MHz band (pdf - 616 Ko)