French telecoms regulator Arcep put on hold plans to carry out a 5G spectrum auction due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, international press reported.
According to the reports, the French regulator says the current scenario makes it impossible to move forwardswith the spectrum sale, initially scheduled to take place next month.
An Arcep spokesperson said that the regulator will organize the frequency sale for a later date once more information on the evolution of the virus outbreak is available.
French president Emmanuel Macron imposed a lockdown on its population from Tuesday for at least two weeks in an attempt to contain the virus.
In November 2019, Arcep said that it would award frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band and that the total allocation would be for 310 MHz of spectrum.It also said it would include four blocks of 50 megahertz and the rest would be blocks of 10 megahertz.
The French government previously said it aims to raise at least 2.17 billion euros ($2.38 billion) from the spectrum sale.
Thomas Reynaud, CEO of French carrier Iliad, said on March 17 that the company has made allowance for a possible postponement of the auction, but that won’t change its plan to have commercial 5G ready by the end of the year.
The country’s four operators Orange, SFR, Iliad and Bouygues were all expected to take part in the upcoming 5G auction.
Arcep’s specifications stipulate that each operator must launch 5G services in at least two cities before the end of 2020. Each carrier should deploy 3,000 sites by 2022, 8,000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 sites by 2025.
Eventually, all of the cell sites must be providing a 5G service using frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band or other bands, according to the regulator.
Arcep also highlighted that it is proposing that 25% of 3.4-3.8 GHz band sites in the last two stages must be located in sparsely populated areas, targeting economic activity, notably manufacturing, excluding major metropolitan areas.
By 2022, at least 75% of cell sites must be capable of providing speeds of at least 240 Mbps at each site, according to Arcep’s initial specifications.
Arcep’s conditions also stipulate the obligation for carrier to deploy 5G to provide coverage in roadways across France.