France’s telecoms regulator Arcep has opened the application process for bidding in the country’s upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction.

It was confirmed today that applications for the 4G friendly spectrum auction must be made by midday 29 September, with the bidding process to then begin and licences issued to winners by the end of 2015.

Six blocks of 2x5MHz are on offer, and a single candidate cannot acquire more than three in total. Operators will not be able to hold more than 2x30MHz of low frequency spectrum in total, across the 700MHz, 800MHz and 900MHz bands combined.

The minimum bid for a block is €416 million each, meaning the country will generate at least €2.5 billion from the auction.

700MHz spectrum, previously used for digital TV services, will be “freed up progressively across the country”, in a period between April 2016 and June 2019.

The country’s four mobile operators – Bouygues Telecom, Iliad, SFR and Orange – are all likely to take part in the auction.

SFR’s parent, Altice, was forced to confirm its intention to bid last month, after doubts were raised by government ministers. They feared Altice’s hostile takeover for rival Bouygues Telecom might lead to its non participation in the contest.