The current state of 5G in France

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5G network launches follow spectrum allocation in October

France was one of the last countries in Western Europe to launch 5G. The country’s mobile operators announced their first 5G deployments in November and December after telecommunications regulator Arcep made suitable spectrum available for 5G in October. Here, we briefly describe the initial availability of 5G announced by French operators.

Illiade

Free Mobile, an Iliad subsidiary, launched 5G commercial services in the country in December. The telecom operator said its 5G network already has 5,255 active sites across France, allowing the operator to cover nearly 40% of the country’s total population.

Free Mobile also said its 5G network already covers rural areas as well as cities.

For its 5G network, Free Mobile currently uses frequencies in the 700 MHz band as well as frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band that Free acquired during the French spectrum auction in 2020.

The operator said that its current spectrum allows wide coverage and good indoor reception thanks to the so-called low frequencies (700 MHz), as well as ultra-fast speeds, thanks to 70 megahertz in the middle band (3.5 GHz).

Free Mobile also pointed out that it mainly uses European equipment to develop its 4G and 5G networks.

Bouygues Telecom

Bouygues Telecom recently announced that its 5G coverage has already reached 67 cities of more than 50,000 inhabitants since the commercial launch of its 5G services on December 1.

The telecommunications company said its 5G deployment has reached more than 1,000 municipalities across the country.

Bouygues Telecom initially launched 5G in 20 cities across France. Some of the cities covered by the company’s 5G network are Lyon, Nice, Cannes, Montpellier, Avignon, Reims, Le Havre, Toulon, Dijon, Villeurbanne, Le Mans, Aix-en-Provence, Boulogne-Billancourt, Metz, Versailles, Saint Denis, Argenteuil, Rouen, Montreuil and Nancy.

The French operator said it expects to achieve national coverage by the end of 2021. The current deployment phase will be based on the 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands.

SFR

SFR has announced that its 5G service will be available in 120 cities in France by the end of December. The telecommunications company initially launched its 5G commercial network in Nice in November.

Among the major cities covered by SFR’s 5G network are Bordeaux, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice and Paris.

Orange

Orange planned to launch its 5G commercial services in 15 municipalities in December. Some of the cities where 5G service will initially be available are Nice, Marseille, Le Mans, Angers and Clermont Ferrand. By the end of 2020, more than 160 municipalities will be covered with 5G, according to Orange’s initial plans.

The operator declared that it had chosen to initially cover already heavily used areas in order to avoid any risk of saturation.

5G spectrum and coverage specifications

The main auction of 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies for the supply of 5G in France ended in early October.

In this spectrum auction, local operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad pledged to pay a total of 2.8 billion euros ($ 3.4 billion) for a total of 11 blocks of 10 megahertz spectrum.

The specifications of the telecoms regulator Arcep for the 5G auction stipulate that each operator must launch 5G services in at least two cities before the end of 2020. Each operator should deploy 3000 sites by 2022, 8000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 sites by 2025.

Ultimately, all cell sites must provide 5G service using frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band or other bands, depending on the regulator.

Arcep has also proposed that 25% of the sites in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band of the last two stages be located in areas with low population density, targeting economic activity, in particular manufacturing, excluding large metropolises.

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