French telecoms regulator Arcep put plans for a 5G spectrum auction on hold, noting the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak made it impossible to press ahead with the sale, scheduled to take place in April.

An Arcep representative told Mobile World Live “logistical reasons” around virus containment measures in France had caused the process to be put on ice for the time being. The regulator must now “study different postponement scenarios and be ready to organise the auctions when we know more.”

The decision comes after French president Emmanuel Macron on 16 March ordered residents to abstain from non-essential travel and gatherings for 15 days to help stem the spread of the virus.

Spectrum in the 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz bands was due to be auctioned in blocks of 10MHz, with the regulator last month stating all four major French operators had also qualified for a fixed-price sale of 50MHz blocks, which was due to be allocated at the same time as spectrum won in the bidding process.

Seeking to encourage commercial 5G launches this year, Arcep originally aimed to issue the spectrum by June at the latest.

The nation expected the sum raised by the auction and fixed-price allocation to raise at least €2.2 billion.