France’s newest mobile network operator, Free Mobile, which is a subsidiary of the Iliad Group, has gained access to new 900MHz frequencies following the return of such spectrum from the country’s three other cellcos. As had previously been expected by local telecoms watchdog Arcep, Les Echos reports that Orange France, SFR and Bouygues Telecom have all handed back spectrum in the 900MHz band, with the development expected to allow Free to enhance its indoor 3G coverage in a number of major cities. Orange and SFR both reportedly handed over 2.4MHz of spectrum apiece, while Bouygues Telecom returned 4.8MHz.
In separate but related news, with Free Mobile having set out its stall to construct 2,500 base stations by the end of 2012, the cellco appears to have fallen short of its self-imposed target. As at end-December 2012 the cellco said it had 2,273 active cell sites, of which it noted 13 had been pre-emptively enabled for Long Term Evolution (LTE) services for when such services are introduced commercially.
Meanwhile, in a third Free Mobile-related story, Reuters, citing local news source BFM Radio, claims that France’s antitrust regulator has rejected a proposal put forward by the Iliad Group and French media and communications group Vivendi, which owns SFR, regarding a merger of Free and SFR.