In January 2020, the French telecom regulator, ARCEP, rolled out the first phase of the 5G award process for the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz spectrum band. Some 25% of these 3.4-3.8GHz band sites launched by 2024 and by 2025 should be located in low density areas. The country’s four operators will also each be able to acquire a block of 50MHz spectrum at a fixed price of €350 million per block, payable over 15 years.
In the second stage of the procedure, the additional blocks of 10MHz will be auctioned with an initial cost of €70 million per block. This will be payable over four years. The first phase is to be completed by March 2020 and the second phase by the end of June 2020. The obligations attached to this spectrum allocation are clear. They require that each operator must launch 5G services in at least two cities before the end of 2020, then 3,000 sites in 2022, 8,000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 sites in 2025.
The range of frequencies offered by regulators is currently an essential band used globally in 5G networks launches. The 1-6GHz bands provide balanced benefits for coverage and bandwidth, as the latter grows with higher frequencies. For their 5G launches telcos can complement the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band by other frequency bands including spectrum in the 700MHz, already allocated to operators in France in 2015.
With all mobile network operators (SFR, Free, Orange and Bouygues Telecom) already engaged in 5G trials, and additional spectrum being tendered by the regulator, we can expect commercial 5G services to launch in France in 2020. Unsurprisingly, 4G will remain the leading technology in France in the mid-term, however, GlobalData predicts that the 5G share of total mobile subscriptions in France will grow quickly from 1.6% in 2020 to 27.0% by 2024.
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