France: the home of innovation or “I did it my way”?
Oct 26, 2018 by Manuel R. Marti

Blog

LocationEurope, France
TagsANFR, Auctions, CBRS, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica

For the past quarter century, Europe’s approach to spectrum has been founded on the belief in auctions. But this week we reported on a Paris seminar which showed that industry is open to new approaches. 

Being innovation-led is a laudable goal. The UK, for example, has recently debated whether it would be fruitful to introduce a CBRS-like approach in 3.5 GHz– the region’s 5G priority band.

Even though EU’s advisory body the RSPG, held a stakeholders’ meeting devoted to a similar theme, there’s an overall sentiment that European administrations are innovation laggards among advanced countries.

Is regulation holding telecoms back? The biggest players in the sector do think so. At the FT-ETNO telecom industry summit in Brussels, Telefónica, Orange and Deutsche Telekom among others blamed governments for dictating how they should invest and making them pay billions of euros for licenses.

However, France seems immune to that criticism.  Almost everyone in the Paris seminar praised the country’s actions in striking a deal with mobile operators to improve LTE coverage through massive infrastructure investments, in return of extending spectrum licences.

And a comparable model might continue in 5G, hinted ARCEP president Sébastien Soriano at the 2018 French spectrum agency’s (ANFR) conference on spectrum and innovation.

“Is there room for free spectrum bands?,” he asked in Paris. Soriano is modernisation personified: an early mover and shaker, focussed on his mission to provide ubiquitous coverage and his Twitter bio reads “pro-innovation regulator”.

So is France leading the pack in spectrum management or simply doing things ‘their way’? Some might argue that the emergence of technologies like Sigfox is the result of having a vibrant regulatory ecosystem.

On the other hand, let’s not forget that la République has historically been fond of state intervention in domestic affairs. And also remember that it is quite literally the home of I did it my way….