The French NRA (ARCEP) is preparing an upcoming call for applications for the allocation of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz band frequencies to be used for the deployment of super-fast mobile networks, commonly named "4G" or fourth generation.

By way of reminder, the effective 800 MHz band, resulting from the digital dividend, is considered attractive to network operators because it enables national coverage with less equipment and therefore less investment. The so- called "golden frequency", is intended mainly, but not only, for town and country digital planning. The 2.6 GHz frequencies have less advantageous propagation characteristics and are intended to provide additional capacity in urban areas.

The definition of allocation process was subject to public consultations launched in March 2009 and July 2010. Thereafter, ARCEP decided to award the frequencies through an auction process in which the first criterion is the price offered by the bidders with regard also to specific conditions i.e. geographical coverage, network sharing, hosting MVNOs (the other criteria). ARCEP is also expected to issue a draft specification of the future licence shortly.

To help stakeholders lay the groundwork for these new networks, ARCEP is issuing temporary authorisations for specific locations to allow technical trials. Several dozen trials in the 2.6 GHz band have already been authorised. In addition, ARCEP has issued the first temporary authorisation for a trial in the 800 MHz band and is processing further requests. For example, resources have been assigned to Alcatel-Lucent to allow the company to perform technical trials at a site located in Lannion (ARCEP Decision no. 2010-1235, of 16 November 2010). ARCEP is going to continue to issue temporary authorisations while guaranteeing perennial licences in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands to the candidates who apply for it and who will have to complete details on all of the authorised trials, prior to the deadline set for submitting their application.

The spectrum is expected to be awarded to selected candidates in the second half of 2011, opening the way for super-fast mobile services in the coming years.