French mobile phone operators Bouygues, SFR, Iliad and Orange (the wireless unit of France Telecom) will be given the opportunity to bid on remaining blocks of third-generation (3G) wireless spectrum in May, with the release of auction rules anticipated later this month. Disclosed in a press interview by Jean-Ludovic Silicani, the president of French telecom regulator Arcep, the auction plan follows the government’s decision in December to authorize Iliad as the nation’s fourth national wireless operator. The license, awarded recently to Iliad, constitutes the first of three 5 MHz license blocks that have been designated by Arcep for wireless 3G services that include video, music and data in addition to voice offerings. Silicani indicated that the two remaining 5 MHz blocks will be auctioned in May, adding, “we will consider all offers from all operators.” Although auction rules are yet to be disclosed, Arcep is expected to set a minimum bid price of US $168.5 million for each license, and auction winners may be required (depending upon the final bid price) to provide network access to competitive mobile virtual network operators. The government, which disclosed plans last month to implement a US $2.9 billion loan program to accelerate broadband deployment, is also expected to announce an auction of fourth generation wireless licenses later this year that would support wireless mobile broadband services.