France hopes to get at least 2.5 billion euros ($3.53 billion) for the fourth-generation (4G) wireless frequencies it plans to grant to telecom operators in an upcoming auction, Industry minister Eric Besson told Le Figaro.
France is in the final stages of setting terms for the auction of fourth-generation mobile spectrum, which will shape the competitive landscape of Europe's third-largest telecom market for years to come.
The government had previously said it wanted to receive at least 2 billion euros from the auction but Besson said the new higher amount matched those of similar auctions the United States, Sweden and Germany.
France must not sell its frequencies at cut-price levels, Besson said in the interview published on Monday.
Besson added the auction would be split into several lots in order to prevent deep-pocketed bidders such as France Telecom from buying the majority of frequencies and gaining a major advantage over smaller players like Bouygues and new mobile entrant Iliad.
The 4G frequencies being sold are of two types. There are four lots up for grabs in the 800 megahertz band, which is more sought after for its ability to carry massive debits over long distances. Besson said the minimum price the government would accept for the lots in the 800 band will be 1.8 billion euros.
Then there is the 2.6 gigahertz band where there is more frequencies available, but given their lower quality will be sold for a lower price. Besson said the government had set a minimum price of 700 million euros for these frequencies.
Asked about the timeframe of the auction, Besson said the government would launch the official bidding process in June, then bids would be submitted in September.
The decisions on the bids would be made in October for the 2.6 gigahertz band, and November for the 800 megahertz band.
(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Leila Abboud; Editing by Mike Nesbit)