Orange is set to launch 5G mobile internet in 15 cities across France on December 3, with the aim of covering 160 towns and cities by the end of the year.
The first 15 cities will include Nice, Marseille, Le Mans, Angers and Clermont-Ferrand.
One of its four competitors in mobile services, SFR, launched 5G in Nice on November 20, making it the first place in France to have access to the service.
So far, 50% of the southern city’s population has access to the service through SFR, with that set to develop further.
Bouygues Telecom is planning to launch its 5G services across France on December 1, but has not yet released further details.
The final French mobile operator that will offer 5G services, Free, has made no announcement so far on when it will launch the technology.
How will 5G be different?
The fastest 5G networks are expected to be at least ten times faster than 4G, UK-based wireless industry trade group GSMA states. This speed could increase to up to 100 times faster over time.
That would mean that it would be possible to download a two-hour film in less than ten seconds, compared to around seven minutes with 4G.
For most internet needs, 30Mbps is more than adequate.
By comparison, 5G will offer downloads speeds of up to 10Gbps.
5G will also mean an end to overcrowded signals. It will still be possible to have super fast internet access even when standing in a large crowd of people also using mobile internet.
France’s telecommunications regulatory agency Arcep states 5G will allow for developments in medicine, transport and the internet of things.
It notes on its website that “new functionalities may be gradually proposed by operators over the next few years as 5G evolves and the frequencies on which it will be deployed.”
To use 5G, it will be necessary to have a new smartphone that is compatible with the technology. Anyone wishing to use the service will also need to sign up for a new mobile tariff.
Orange has already started to sell 5G-compatible packages. The cheapest in the range is offered at €24.99 per month for one year, going up to €39.99 per month for a 70GB package.
Arcep states that: “Operators are free to set their own prices. It is possible that the first packages may be more expensive than 4G rates. But experience shows that a novelty usually becomes a market standard after a while.”
5G in Nice
SFR is the first mobile operator to launch 5G in France, with Nice, on the Côte d’Azur, the first recipient.
Mayor Christian Estrosi said at a small inauguration event, “my commitment has always been to make Nice an attractive area, not only for its inhabitants but also for industry, startups and universities.
“To see Nice today become the first city in France to be equipped with 5G is a source of pride. It is also a concrete illustration of the power of attraction of our economic fabric and the dynamism of our city.”
SFR tweeted a map showing the coverage of 5G in Nice.
France’s 5G roll-out
Eventually, all sites in France will be required to provide a 5G service, but the initial phases are as followed:
5G in 3,000 sites by 2022, 8,000 sites by 2024 and 10,500 sites by 2025.
At least 25% of these sites must be in “sparsely populated areas and industrial areas, outside the main metropolitan zones,” France’s telecommunications regulatory agency Arcep states.
A spokesperson at Arcep said that there is also an obligation for the four telecoms operators to increase 4G coverage.
From 2022, at least 75% of sites [in France] should benefit from a mobile internet download speed of at least 240Mbps (megabits per second). By the end of 2025, 90% of sites should offer this speed.
France is not the first country in Europe to introduce 5G.
It has already been launched in Spain, Italy, Germany, the UK and Switzerland.
Worldwide, South Korea is leading the way in deployment and marketing of 5G on frequencies similar to Europe.
Arcep will be publishing maps at the beginning of 2021 to chart the rollout of 5G.
This will include the locations of the sites that the operators plan to bring into service within three months and the locations of the sites for which an application for planning permission has been filed.
5G has sparked some controversy in France over safety concerns and possible effects on the environment.
The city of Lille in Hauts-de-France has suspended permission for any further deployment of 5G pending the 2021 publication of a report on the technology’s safety.
Mayor Martine Aubry confirmed the council’s decision in a tweet, saying: “Because our doubts exist from a health point of view and the digital implications of the deployment of 5G, we have voted for a moratorium. It is urgent to wait.”
The decision was made pending the publication of a 2021 report on the health implications of 5G, set to be released by health and safety body, l’Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l'Alimentation, de l'Environnement et du Travail (Anses).
Arcep notes on its website that, “whatever the technological developments, electromagnetic emissions from mobile networks must strictly comply with a number of thresholds and regulatory constraints.
“The 2G, 3G and 4G networks have been deployed in compliance with these thresholds and constraints. 5G will be no exception.”