Directions set by ARCEP on the introduction of 3G in the 900 and 1800 MHz mobile frequency bands in Metropolitan France

Paris, 5th July 2007

The rapid reuse by third-generation mobile services (3G) of frequency bands currently used by 2G represents a major stake for the extension of 3G coverage.

This is why ARCEP held a public consultation from 4 May to 4 June 2007 as part of the analysis and discussion process initiated in the spring of 2006 with sector players to establish the means of reusing for 3G the 900 and1800 MHz frequencies which are currently used for 2G.

ARCEP is now reporting the results of the public consultation and the directions it has chosen for the implementation of 3G in the 900 and 1800 MHz bands.

ARCEP is providing visibility to the sector’s players—both operators and industrialists—on the regulatory approaches which may be chosen for the reuse of the 900 and 1800 MHz bands for 3G, so that they can initiate preparatory technical works for the rapid introduction of 3G in these bands.

Furthermore, this press release aims to enlighten parties interested in participating in the application procedure launched on 8 March 2007 for the assignment of the fourth 3G licence regarding the availability timetable of 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies for a new entrant. ARCEP had announced this in the reasoning for its decision no. 2007-0177 describing the application procedure.

Nine players contributed to this public consultation. There were five electronic communications network operators, one equipment manufacturer, two companies using GSM services and one government administration.

The contributions confirmed the major outlines proposed by ARCEP in its public consultation in the two configurations corresponding to whether or not there will be a fourth 3G operator. Moreover, the contributors raised questions regarding fees and compatibility in adjacent bands which should be taken into account.

Given these elements, ARCEP has decided on the directions which are described in the attached document.

The main consequences of these measures are as follows:

  • As early as 2008, 2G-3G operators wishing to do so may reuse 900 MHz spectrum for 3G
  • Any 3G new entrant authorised following the application procedure for the fourth 2.1 GHz UMTS licence would also have access to the 900 MHz spectrum once it has been returned by the existing 2G operators. The spectrum would be made available in late 2009 outside densely populated areas, and in late 2012 for the rest of the country.

Directions chosen by ARCEP for the reuse of 900 and 1800 MHz bands for 3G

This document describes the means which will be used for the reuse of the 900 and 1800 MHz bands. These means will be different depending on whether the market will be composed of three or four 3G mobile operators.

Reuse of 900 and 1800 MHz bands in a configuration with three 3G operators

This case corresponds to the situation where the fourth 3G authorisation available in the 2.1 GHz band is not assigned.

In this situation, the current assignment of the 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies would not have to be changed except for some minor adjustments regarding guard bands.

The frequency use authorisations of each of these three 2G/3G mobile operators would be modified when they would request it, to allow each of them to use the frequencies which are assigned to them in the 900 and 1800 MHz bands according to their choice for 2G or 3G.

The use of the frequencies by 3G will be reviewed in March 2011, at the stage review on the frequency assignments planned for the renewed usage authorisations for the 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies.

Reuse of the 900 MHz band in a four 3G operator configuration

This case corresponds to the situation where the fourth 3G authorisation is assigned.

In this situation, the frequency usage authorisations for the 900 MHz frequencies of the three existing 2G operators would be modified as quickly as possible.

The purpose of this modification would be to:

  • to authorise each of the three 2G/3G operators to use the frequencies assigned to it in the 900 MHz band as it chooses for 2G or 3G
  • to plan for the return of frequencies in the 900 MHz band in order to assign 5 MHz duplex to the 3G new entrant as proposed in the public consultation and as reviewed below. The 2G/3G operators would then keep about 10 MHz duplex each.

The target distribution scheme of the frequency assignment in the 900 MHz band on the entire Metropolitan territory would be as follows:

The frequency return timetable for existing 2G operators will differ according to whether or not they are located in heavily populated areas, as defined in the specifications of the existing 2G operators.

If a license is issued by the spring of 2008, the new entrant would have 5 MHz duplex in 900 MHz freed in late 2009 outside heavily populated areas for the operation of its 3G mobile network, then in late 2012 in heavily populated areas.

The reuse of the 1800 MHz band in the four-operator configuration will be examined at a later date, with a timetable adapted to market demands.

ARCEP has contacted the Minister of Electronic Communications regarding the question of applicable fees for the use of frequencies.

Technical conditions

It is important to ensure that the introduction of UMTS does not create any interference prejudicial for applications in adjacent bands. ARCEP wishes to remind players that electromagnetic compatibility studies mentioned in the consultation tend to show that emissions outside UMTS bands are equivalent to those of GSM. So, ARCEP plans to impose the obligation that 3G maintain the maximum level of interference which is currently authorised for 2G networks in the 900 MHz band.

Linked documents

Smiley Directions set by ARCEP on the introduction of 3G in the 900 and 1800 MHz mobile frequency bands (pdf (pdf - 63 Ko)) Smiley