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France launches long-awaited bidding for new mobile network

The bidding process for a fourth mobile-network license in France has been officially launched after long lobbying against it by the three operators already in place. Interested companies have until October 29 to present their case.

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AFP - The French government on Saturday launched the bidding process for the license for a fourth national mobile network and confirmed the asking price of 240 million euros (330 million dollars) in the government gazette.

France Telecom (Orange), immediately said it would contest the price with the European Commission.

The price is only around a third of the 619 million euros which Orange and fellow operators Bouygues Telecom and SFR paid in the early years of this decade.

The deadline for candidates to lodge their bids has been fixed at October 29, with the granting of the license around eight months from that date.

It had been expected the bidding process would be launched before the end of July.

"France Telecom is going to complain to the European Commission about state aid, that is the advantage being granted to the fourth operator compared to the other three holders of mobile network operating licenses," a spokesman for France Telecom told AFP.

Earlier Saturday Iliad, the parent company of French Internet service provider Free, welcomed the launch of the bidding process and said it would be a candidate.

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