French regulator Arcep’s chief Sebastien Soriano announced it will be challenging to keep prices low for a 2019 spectrum auction, especially when supply cannot keep up with demand, but said it wants to find a way to do so.

The high prices operators end up paying has been a hot topic since Italy recently raised €6.5 billion, some €4 billion more than the minimum amount targeted. This was criticised for not leaving operators with enough cash to invest in infrastructure.

Governments have often used such auctions as an easy way to raise money.

“In the past, the financial argument may have been important, perhaps very important, but opinions have changed,” Soriano told Reuters.

“There’s room to be inventive. Now, we need to find the right ideas and that’s not easy,” he added.

Arcep plans to put up the 3.5GHz band for its 5G auction, but Soriano admitted scarcity of spectrum could impact prices: “As long as we’ve not solved this problem about the quantity of frequencies that we have at our disposal…there’s a difficult equation to balance.”

“I can’t say that Italy is a counter-example as long as I haven’t found the solution so that we don’t do the same thing.”

France today (26 October) opened a public consultation which will run until the end of the year.

In its last spectrum auction in 2015 the government raised €2.8 billion.