The French government has confirmed that it will launch the tender for the country’s long-awaited fourth 3G license this summer, but warned that the process would not be completed by year-end. According to a Dow Jones Newswires report, government spokesman and industry minister Luc Chatel said in a TV interview that the government has asked an official body to evaluate the right price for the license. The body is expected to report opinion within the next couple of weeks. “We want to be certain [that the state will not lose out]” said Chatel, adding that a fourth mobile operator “won’t be designated before the end of the year” due to the delays linked to the tender process. The government had earlier valued the license at around EUR206 million, the report says.

A leading contender for the license is thought to be French broadband provider Iliad, which has previously said it will invest EUR1 billion to build a network covering 90 percent of the country’s population if it wins the license. Dow Jones Newswires reports today that privately-held cable operator Numericableis is also mulling a bid for the frequencies. The French government is keen to issue further 3G licenses in order to boost competition in its domestic 3G market, which remains dominated by just three operators: France Telecom’s Orange, SFR and Bouygues. An attempt in 2007 to auction the fourth license was abandoned after it generated just one bid – from Iliad subsidiary Free Mobile – that was deemed too low.