French regulator Arcep launched the country’s first 5G spectrum auction, covering frequencies in the 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz bands, with commercial services expected to go live by the year-end.

In a statement, the authority noted operators will be able to bid for 11 lots of 10MHz blocks and they will be able to obtain no more than 100MHz in total. The reserve price is €70 million per 10MHz, with expectations the process will raise more than €2.2 billion in total.

As part of the auction, operators will need to deploy 5G services across 10,500 sites in 2025.

The nation is conducting a two-stage process, with blocks of 50MHz of the spectrum available being sold for a fixed price of €350 million each to the four main operators.

This spectrum is due to be made available at the same time as the blocks won in the auction.

Arcep originally aimed to conduct the auction in April, but was forced to delay due to Covid-19 (coronavirus).

In an interview with France Info, Arcep president Sebastien Soriano said there was no limit to the sum raised by the auction, but the authority hoped operators would “remain reasonable” and keep some money to invest in the networks.

He referred to a deal struck in 2018 to close gaps in LTE coverage, which had already seen operators commit to invest €3 billion into their networks.

Soriano told the outlet 5G will bring better opportunities for people and will modernise a lot of industries, while playing-down concerns over potential adverse health effects.