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France sets deadline for 3G licence applications

The French telecoms regulator has set out the timetable for the award of two more licences to operate third-generation (3G)...

The French telecoms regulator has set out the timetable for the award of two more licences to operate third-generation (3G) mobile communication networks, to complement the two licences already awarded on 31 May.

The terms and conditions of the licences are almost unchanged from those of the first round of applications, said the Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications (ART).

Prospective network operators must apply by 16 May, and ART plans to make the names of the licence winners public by 30 September.

To speed the rollout of services by new operators, the licences will include the right for new operators to offer roaming services on the networks of existing operators for up to six years, as long as the new operators provide a minimum standard of coverage with their own networks.

The existing licence holders - France Télécom SA's mobile telecoms subsidiary Orange SA, and Vivendi Universal SA's subsidiary Société Française du Radiotéléphone SA - will be required to open up their networks to new competitors.

The regulator always planned to issue four licences to operate universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS) networks, but received only two applications for the first set of licences.

Operators' reluctance to pay for the licences provoked a storm of controversy over the level of the fee the French government was asking. In October, the government backed down and reduced the price of the existing and unissued licences.

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