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Plans for fourth mobile network

Free claims it is the best candidate and could save households thousands – decision due in the summer.

A NEW mobile phone network could be operating in France by the end of next year meaning better tariffs for consumers.

Currently three mobile phone networks share the market; Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom, however the government has announced a fourth operator could be chosen by the summer.

Prime Minister François Fillon said: “There has been much debate over the issue.

“A new operator will mean more competition, without destabilising the market, allowing existing operators to gain part of the fourth licence and preserving the interests of mobile phone users.”

The government has asked telecoms regulator Arcep to launch a tender for the three blocks of frequencies.

Internet supplier Free, owned by Iliad, said it was “very happy” with the announcement.

General director of Free Maxime Lombardini said: “Free is a very legitimate candidate to become the fourth operator, a move which France really needs.”

Founder of Iliad, which owns Free, Xavier Niel said: “We could reduce the bill of a household with three contracts by a thousand euros a year.”

In 2007 the government tried to sell the fourth licence in one single block, averaging a fixed price of 619 million euros. At the time, only Free had put in a bid however at a much lower price.

A fourth operator could be on the market by the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011.

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