More iPhone 5 4G support likely in France after spectrum refarming decision

France's Bouygues Telecom has been given the go-ahead to refarm 1800Mhz spectrum - the band used by the iPhone 5.
Written by Anne Morris, Contributor

A decision by the French telecoms watchdog is likely to speed up the roll-out of 4G LTE in the country – and with iPhone 5 support to boot.

Bouygues Telecom has been authorised to refarm its 1800MHz spectrum for uses other than GSM services following a decision by French regulator Arcep on Thursday, in a move that increases the pressure on rival operators to step up their LTE roll-out plans.

Bouygues Telecom, France's third largest mobile operator with around 15 percent of the market, said it has a month to decide whether or not to go ahead with the change, which it requested last July. In a statement, the operator said it would make a decision in the next few days.

The fixed and mobile operator also noted that the approval to use the spectrum for services such as LTE is subject to some conditions, as it would be required to hand back 2.8MHz of its 1800MHz frequencies by 1 October, which is also the date from which it's permitted to refarm the spectrum.

Unsurprisingly, the decisions hasn't gone down well with rivals. Orange France said in a statement that it "regrets the decision", adding the move will give Bouygues Telecom an advantage that other operators can't match, "enabling a single market player to take a 'short cut' in the race to deploy 4G services".

As well as giving Bouygues Telecom the ability to roll out LTE services in a speedier and cheaper fashion, using 1800MHz would also enable it to support the LTE-enabled iPhone 5, giving the operator another advantage over the competition.

While both SFR and Orange France are now also able to request for permission to refarm their 1800MHz spectrum for LTE services, Orange for one has previously made it clear that it needs this spectrum for its existing mobile services.

The decision "comes less than a year after the granting of 4G frequencies," added Orange, which noted that operators paid nearly €3.6bn - €1.18bn from Orange alone – for the right to use 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum for LTE services.

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