On 22th November last, the Arcep adopted the procedures for allocating frequencies in the 3.5 Ghz band. Two days later, the government announced the reserve price below which it did not intend to transfer the first portion of spectrum dedicated to the 5G mobile network. And the operators make a face: the floor price seems far too high to them.
4 sets of 50 MHz allocated to each of the four operators at a fixed price of 350 million euros. Then 11 blocks of 10 Mhz that they will then compete at auction, bidding 70 million euros. 2.17 billion, while Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free did not expect this reserve price to exceed The Arcep even campaigned for a prize of 1.5 billion "grand maximum".
In an interview at Les Echos, however, Agnès Pannier-Runacher presents this amount as "reasonable". In particular with regard to the sums paid by German or Italian operators. The representative of Bercy also argued that this figure corresponds to that determined by the Commission des Participations et Transferts, which "analyses the price below which the French people's assets do not seem to him to have to be sold".
A discourse that clashed with the operational and financial reality of 5G, reacted the operators. "This decision is not consistent with what has been put forward by the government in recent months," said Arthur Dreyfuss, President of the TFF. It constantly warns the State against a price boom that would deprive operators of the means to invest in deployment afterwards. Especially since the obligations assigned to them in return for the allocation of frequencies seem too ambitious.
5G frequencies too expensive: another dispute on the road to the future mobile network. Their disagreements relate not only to the reserve price, but also to the size of fixed-price blocks, the pace of deployment, 5G hedging obligations and the duration of licences. A non-exhaustive list of demands on which the regulator is far from having satisfied the Telecom Quartet.
Against the advice of Arcep, which favoured 60 MHz blocks, the state finally opted for 50 MHz. "With 50 MHz blocks, for a total of 310 MHz, the risk is that one operator will get twice as many frequencies as another," explained Sébastien Soriano, President of the Arcep, in Le Figaro. Bouygues Telecom and Free fear that they will lose out in the deal as they are less well equipped financially to bid higher.
Iliad also called for the removal of the third milestone in the deployment of 5G sites - 12,000 at the end of 2025 - for operators who would not obtain the famous 60 MHz. Arcep did not grant this right, but this obligation has been reduced to 10,500 sites. An adjustment reflecting the many criticisms encountered by the initial schedule. This assumed an acceleration of 1,000 sites per year from 2020 to 2022 and then to 2,500/year in 2023-2024 and 4,000/year in 2025 alone.
Bouygues Telecom, Orange and Free replied that they were unplayable, citing technical, financial and administrative constraints. Operators simply do not have the means to make the "leap" of 4,000 sites initially expected in 2025, argues Bouygues Telecom. For whom, moreover, "there is also no capacitive need of this magnitude on this horizon".
8,000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 in 2025 finally but not only in urban areas. The Arcep intends to ensure that the deployment of 5G will also benefit low-density areas, in line with government expectations. The regulator initially proposed to extend this obligation to the 22,000 municipalities of priority deployment areas (PDAs) as defined by the 2015 decision on the allocation of 700 MHz frequencies.
Again, there was no unanimity on this idea. Bouygues Telecom is not going about it in four ways: "Hedging obligations are very heavy and inconsistent with the object sold". For the operator, the 3.4-3.8 GHz band is intended for uses primarily for capacity, so that its use "is not relevant in sparsely populated areas".
Also mentioned by other actors, an approach consisting in prioritizing 5G deployments on "territories that we are sure will not benefit from FttH before a date to be determined". One of the approaches mentioned by Cerema or by the Assembly of French Departments is to use fixed 5G to compensate for future deficiencies in very high wireline broadband.
Finally, the opportunity to add the ZDP perimeter to the very recent list of "Industrial Territories" is suggested by several actors: Cerema again, but also Banque des Territoires or Orange. An addition finally retained by the Arcep in its specifications.
The last point of contention on the part of operators is the granting of 5G licences for an initial period of only fifteen years, which can be extended by five years after the Arcep's assessment. The Authority considers that this period is "appropriate to the level of investment required to fulfil the obligations under the procedure". Not Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR: the trio believes that this will not be enough to make their investments profitable.
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Source : DegroupNews