During 2000 the French government sought tenders for four new licences for universal mobile telephone service (UMTS) third-generation mobile telephone services, using a process of comparative tender rather than auction. Under EU rulings UMTS services should be launched commercially in member states by January 1 2002.

As of January 31 2001, the deadline for the filing of tenders, only two operators (France Telecom Mobiles and SFR) had submitted an application. While the French Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ART) did not consider that this impacted on the original procedure, it has decided to launch a further call for tenders in order to meet the goal of granting four licences.

According to the ART's original timetable, the next stages of the process are as follows:

  • ART to provide its recommendations on successful tenderers by May 31 2001 at the latest;

  • French telecommunications minister to approve the grant of licences by June 30 2001 at the latest; and

  • frequencies to be awarded to operators from July 2001.

For further information on this topic please contact Eric Morgan de Rivery, Pierre de Girard or Kate Thackeray at Lovells by telephone (+33 1 53 67 47 47) or by fax (+33 1 53 67 47 48) or by email ([email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]).