SFR to question 4th mobile licence price

Pascale Paoli Lebailly

French telco SFR, a subsidiary of Vivendi Group, plans to complain to the European Commssion about the inexpensive price of France’s fourth mobile licence, according to Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy.

"We do not understand why frequencies are going to be sold to a new entrant at a less expensive price than what we bought them a few years ago and without asking historical operators if they were ready to buy them at a higher price,” he said.

The price of the fourth mobile licence has been fixed by the French government at €240 million. At the beginning of the decade, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Orange invested €619 million each to get into the market. But this time, frequencies have been divided into three lots, including one reserved for a new entrant. Both France Télécom and Bouygues Telecom have also decided to seize EC on this point.

Levy also pointed out that various foreign countries have opened the market to four operators, like Australia. “In Spain, the fourth one is not showing good health. If the fourth operator is viable, why are we selling cut-price to stimulate the market ?” he asked.

For his part, Vincent Bolloré, CEO of Bolloré Group, whose media branch is already a new entrant on the French DTT market with channel Direct 8, asserted his interest in a fourth mobile licence. But he added it would not be reasonable for his group to launch alone. He does not exclude reaching a partnership with another group to do so.

Other operators interested into the fourth licence are Free (Iliad group), virtual mobile operator Kertel, cable operator Numéricable and Egyptian group Orascom.