France Pledges Price Restraint in Upcoming 5G Airwaves Auction

(Bloomberg) -- France won’t push for the highest possible prices from telecom carriers bidding in its upcoming auction of 5G mobile spectrum, a government member said.

“We are not in a policy of maximizing the price,” Agnes Pannier-Runacher, junior economic minister, said in an interview. “We think that is a short-term strategy that hurts the ability of operators to invest. 5G infrastructure is an important element in the competitiveness of the country.”

The comments will give some comfort to telecom executives who’ve been warning officials against seeking high bids that would leave them less money to spend on network-building, after Italy’s record-breaking $7.6 billion auction last year. The French auction will be in the autumn and the frequencies distributed next year, Pannier-Runacher said.

The junior minister also said the government doesn’t intend to encourage mergers among the country’s four mobile operators: Orange SA, Altice Europe NV’s SFR, Bouygues SA’s telecom unit, and Iliad SA’s Free. A four-player market “allows a level of competition that’s given us prices that are very competitive compared with elsewhere in Europe,” she said.

France Pledges Price Restraint in Upcoming 5G Airwaves Auction

The industry will continue to work with Chinese equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co., despite the U.S. crackdown, she said. The Chinese company is subject to the same technical checks, rules, laws and regulations as any other supplier, despite pressure from the U.S. to exclude it from 5G contracts because of alleged security risks, she said.

Since the U.S. began pushing for its allies to restrict Huawei from 5G, French officials have opposed any ban of the Chinese supplier, instead proposing a law that would subject equipment to tests to ensure networks are secure.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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