France on Wednesday kicked off auctions for frequencies to build high-speed fourth generation mobile telephone networks needed to keep up with the explosion of Internet-capable smartphones.
Bandwidth in the 800 megahertz and 2.6 gigahertz range are on the block, with minimum bids set at 2.5 billion euros ($3.6 billion), according to information published in France's official government journal.
Bids for 2.6 gigahertz frequencies close on September 15, with the licenses to be awarded before the end of the year.
Bidding for the 800 megahertz frequencies closes on December 15, with licenses awarded in early 2011.
Winners of 2.6 gigahertz frequencies have to cover 75 percent of the French population within 12 years, and winners of 800 megahertz frequencies have to reach 98 percent coverage within 12 years.
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