Paris: France started auctioning radio frequencies on Tuesday to deploy ultra-fast 5G mobile technology, a process that will add billions of euros to the government’s exhausted coffers.
Operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free are bidding for 11 unused frequency blocks, with the aim of providing 5G services in some French cities before the end of this year.
The fifth-generation successor to the fourth-generation technology is expected to transmit data fundamentally faster, heralding major changes in a range of products and services from driverless cars to remote surgery.
France originally planned to start selling these frequencies in April, but the auction was postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis.
France lags behind other countries that have already launched 5G services, of which South Korea and China are the most advanced.
More than a dozen EU countries have also begun to operate 5G services, but none of them are as developed as the Asian leaders.
Due to health and environmental issues, French activists and left-wing lawmakers tried to stop the promotion of 5G, but the administration of President Emmanuel Macron has been persistent.
Macron is eager to build France into an emerging country that embraces cutting-edge technology, and even mocked 5G competitors this month because they have imposed an “Amish model.”
He said: “France will pursue the transition to 5G because it is a transition to innovation.”
The government is expected to receive at least 2.2 billion euros (US$2.6 billion) from the sale. This is a welcome surprise when the government was investing all its financial resources in the fight to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the pressure of new restrictions on economic activity, this deployment is also seen as a key driving force for French industry.
Digital Minister Cedric O told Radio Europe 1 on Tuesday: “Everyone knows that this is essential for economic recovery and the future of the industry.”
The main auction of frequencies is planned to last for 10 days, and then the second auction will determine the exact location of the operators on each frequency band. The center of the frequency band is less susceptible to interference than the edges.
A complicating factor is Huawei’s strict restrictions on the use of equipment. Some governments, especially the US government, suspect that this may help China eavesdrop on Western networks.
Many experts believe that the absence of China’s Behemoth will produce the most advanced 5G equipment at the best price, which will force SFR and Bouygues Telecom to turn to rival suppliers Ericsson and Nokia in particular, a move that requires major revisions to their investment plans .