Thursday, April 20, 2006

WiMAX in France

French operator Iliad, which bought Altitude Telecom and its national 3.5GHz spectrum license last year, plans to offer WiMAX-based services to the 1.6m-strong customer base of its DSL subsidiary Free over the coming two months.

Free broadband subscribers will be equipped with customer premises equipment compatible with the Alvarion pre-WiMAX system used by IFW, the subsidiary created to house the wireless activities of Altitude.

Once they have the new CPE, users will be able to access the IFW network in any of its territories, which include most major French metropolitan districts.

However, IFW's WiMAX licence is being contested by rival Neuf Cegetel in a suit brought at the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court. Neuf held a WiMAX licence until 2003, when it was forced to give up the permit for lack of use and a planned new auction of the frequencies. Due to lack of interest from other candidates, the national regulator Arcep awarded only one licence in 2003 to Altitude. Since then interest in WiMAX has increased and Arcep is planning a new auction of the frequencies. According to Neuf, which is reportedly supported by France Telecom in the action, the change in circumstances requires the regulator to revoke Altitude's licence.