Bouygues says France should postpone 5G auction to year-end because of COVID-19

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PARIS (Reuters) – France should postpone its planned auction of 5G frequencies to late 2020 or early 2021 because of uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus crisis, the head of one of France’s top conglomerates said on Saturday. In February, French telecoms regulator Arcep had said it was hoping to award the 5G licences by June, but after France went into virus lockdown mid-March, Arcep postponed the sale and said a new date would depend on the progression of the health crisis. “We need to push back the auction date simply because the economic world today is not the same as it was early March, when the terms of the auction were set,” Martin Bouygues, CEO of Bouygues Telecom’s parent company, said in the French daily Le Figaro. Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR had already submitted tender package for some frequencies in February. “It is true that telecoms operators have escaped the crisis relatively unscathed, but is it reasonable to think they can buy frequencies for which the price was set early this year, when the economy was booming, while now it looks like 2020 growth may fall 8% and the recession will no doubt last?” he said. He said the pandemic …

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