Rivals refuse to talk to Free
France's fourth mobile operator hits difficulties getting rural network coverage ready for 2012 launch
INTERNET service provider Free has hit problems in its plans to launch France's fourth mobile phone network.
The company's three existing rivals - SFR, Orange and Bouygues Telecom - are reportedly refusing to negotiate with the new competitor about offering access to their high-speed 3G networks.
This could mean that the provider will not be able to offer services such as mobile internet and video calls outside of big cities when it launches in 2012.
According to Les Echos, the existing operators are required by law to talk to Free about it using their transmission network for basic calls - but not for internet, video and other 3G applications.
Free is planning to build its own 3G transmission network, but predicts that it will take until at least 2015 to cover 70% of the French population.
Les Echos says the provider could now lodge a formal complaint with telecoms watchdog Arcep and take legal action against its rivals.
Free was the only bidder for the fourth mobile licence. The company says it will intensify competition in the mobile phone sector, leading to better deals for customers.
The operator says the majority of its existing internet and TV customers live in urban areas, where 3G will be available from launch.
Only one bid for new mobile licence