Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR have launched 5G commercial services in France
Orange France launched its commercial 5G mobile network on 3 December 2020 in 15 municipalities including Nice, Marseille, Le Mans, Angers, and Clermont Ferrand. By the end of 2020, more than 160 municipalities will be covered with the 3.5GHz 5G network, providing data speeds up to three-to-four times faster than 4G LTE. According to Orange, each municipality will be added to the official coverage list when its 5G outdoor population coverage rate reaches 80% or more.
Rival operator Bouygues Telecom switched on its 5G network in 20 major cities the 1st of December. The network is available in Lyon, Nice, Montpellier, Reims, Le Havre, Toulon, Dijon, Villeurbanne, Le Mans, Aix-en-Provence, Boulogne-Billancourt, Metz, Saint-Denis, Argenteuil, Rouen, Versailles, Montreuil, Nancy, Avignon, and Cannes. The French operator has also confirmed the goal of achieving nationwide coverage by the end of 2021. The current roll-out phase will rely on the 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands.
SFR announced in late November the availability of its 5G service in the city of Nice. 50% of the population of Nice is covered by 5G, and within several weeks, 80% will be covered. The company confirmed plans to extend its coverage to more than 120 municipalities throughout December. The rollouts will take place at selected locations in the agglomerations of Bordeaux, Marseille-Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice, and Paris-Ile-de-France.
The French auction for the allocation of frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band ended the 1st of October, reaching a total of 2.8 billion EUR. Orange bid 854 million EUR for a total of 90 MHz; SFR 728 million EUR on 80 MHz, with Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile (Iliad) each bidding 602 million EUR for 70 MHz.
Licensees are required to activate 5G service on 3,000 sites by end-2022, 8,000 by end-2024, and 10,500 by end-2025. By 2022, at least 75% of cell sites must be capable of providing speeds of at least 240 Mbps at each site.
The regulator also stated that it is setting up an observatory dedicated to 5G rollouts. The observatory will provide a wide range of information such as number of 5G cell sites, and regional mapping of active 5G cell site deployments.