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France to auction off 4G spectrum, carriers ready to get their bid on

Brad Molen
05.23.11
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If you have a few billion euros hiding in your couch cushion and you've always dreamed of owning a coveted sect of airspace, might we suggest a 4G auction? France has some 18 blocks of high-speed spectrum up for grabs this September in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, and wants at least 2.5 billion euros ($3.6b) in exchange for the whole enchilada. Expensive as it may seem, there's no reason to believe it shouldn't easily surpass that amount; the biggest competitors are definitely not lightweights by any stretch of the imagination, and -- as this will be the last of such spectrum to be sold for at least ten years -- we know each contender will be on its A-game. Fortunately the government has regulated the whole affair to keep spectrum-hogging to a minimum: no company can buy more than half of the "beachfront" 800MHz band, and no more than 15MHz of the 2.6GHz (out of 70MHz available). The most awe-inspiring regulation, however, is that victors will be required to build out their 4G networks in rural zones, ensuring that 90 percent of the population will have access to high-speed mobile broadband within 12 years. Could the US government learn a few things from this process?

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