EU rejects bid to block France's fourth 3G licence
Europe's competition watchdog on Tuesday cleared a French decision to award a fourth high-speed 3G mobile network licence to Internet provider Free, rejecting complaints from competitors.
French telecom operators Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom said Free received illegal state aid by being charged 240 million euros ($345 million) for the 3G licence in 2009, noting that they had each paid 619 million euros.
The European Commission countered that the procedure for awarding the licence to Free "did not involve any state aid under the EU rules."
"In the Commission's view, the award was made by way of a transparent and open procedure in accordance with European Union regulations and resulted in a competitive outcome," it said.
Mobile 3G networks are vital to the lucrative smartphone industry, providing users with Internet access on their handheld devices.
© 2011 AFP