Saturday, January 16

Orange, SFR, Free and Bouygues Telecom 5G cards and coverage

5G was launched at the end of 2020 in France. If you have a compatible smartphone, you will certainly want to test this new generation of wireless networks. Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile have launched their 5G packages and switched on their network accordingly, however there are important differences. Here are the maps and tools to help you see more clearly.

Before subscribing to a 5G plan, it is important to find out about the coverage of your mobile operator. In this file, we come back to the different frequency bands allocated to 5G in France and we give you the keys and tools to identify 5G coverage near you and in your region.

How to differentiate “the” 5G?

You often hear about “fake” 5G and “real” 5G. Even if there is not strictly speaking a false 5G in France, contrary to the practices of certain American operators who have deployed 5GE equivalent to our 4G ++, there are nevertheless several frequency bands allocated to 5G.

The 700 and 2100 MHz bands combine 4G and 5G

The 700 and 2100 MHz bands are a first deployment of 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) which uses frequency bands coexisting with 4G. The existing equipment at the level of the antennas of the networks then allows the joint use of several technologies on the same frequency.

This 5G Non-Standalone still relies on 4G to function: the connection uses 4G LTE while 5G carriers are used to increase data rates and reduce latency. The spectrum is thus shared between 4G and 5G. It is also easy to deploy for operators, it is a software update which explains why we already have hundreds of antennas activated. The smartphone aggregates the 5G band and one or more 4G bands if these are available.

The advantage is that you can connect to both 4G and 5G at these frequency bands. Even though it’s 5G slower than 3.5GHz 5G, we’re seeing an increase of around 15% more speeds than 4G +. This 5G should make it possible to obtain at least 240 Mbit / s downlink. Obviously, the actual speed can depend on many parameters, such as the distance to the antenna, the compatibility of your smartphone or the simultaneous number of users.

A 3.5 GHz band allocated to 5G with the infrastructure of the 4G network

As a reminder, for the moment, only the 3.5 GHz band is the one that has been allocated exclusively to 5G, after a long award and auction process. Theoretically, this frequency band offers sufficient bandwidth with a significant increase in bit rate. However, there are still very few 5G 3.5 GHz antennas.

In addition, it is a 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), this means that the underlying network infrastructure is that of 4G. This obviously limits the increase in throughput and the reduction in latency. We nevertheless found speeds that can go beyond 1 Gbit / s during our first tests on the Orange network.

The 26 GHz band known as millimeter waves

Later, there is no schedule for the moment, the Standalone (SA) 5G will be deployed. This 5G SA, which can be described as “true5G, will make good use of a “new network architecture” and will be deployed with millimeter waves (mmWave bands). These are the famous 24 to 30 GHz bands (26 GHz in France).

This frequency band, thanks to its large width, will allow unparalleled speeds and unprecedented uses. While waiting for its allocation within a few years, it will be the subject of several experiments.

What is the 5G coverage of French operators?

The National Frequencies Agency (ANFR) manages all radio frequencies in France, it keeps the accounts of authorized antennas, installed and active in France. As of December 1st, here are the important figures to know:

3,5 GHz2100 MHz700 MHzTotal
Free Mobile38001174612126
Bouygues Telecom165344703612

You will therefore notice an uneven distribution of the 5G antennas of the operators. Free Mobile is the only one to transmit in 5G on the 700 MHz band, which requires a compatible smartphone (B28 and n28). As we explained above, the 700 MHz and 2100 MHz bands do not offer the performance that you will get with the 3.5 GHz band.

It is possible to identify all these antennas thanks to to the Cartoradio tool ( set up by Arcep. Select your operator, then deselect 2G, 3G and 4G. We advise you which uses the same data from Arcep, but with a tool that is easier to use. It allows you to select its operator, its technology, but also the chosen frequency bands.

Mobile operators also offer cards with 5G coverage depending on the frequency bands and technologies:

Finally, Arcep has set up an observatory which provides a map of 5G sites open commercially.

Source: Observatory of Arcep's 5G deployment in December 2020

Gamesdone: Observatory of Arcep’s 5G deployment in December 2020

You can also get maps by region on the Arcep website. This makes it possible to monitor the deployment of 5G in France more precisely.

What are the best 5G plans?

We have set up a 5G plan comparator to help you select an offer that matches your needs.

Free 5G plan – 150 GB / Unlimited

Unlimited calls

Unlimited SMS / MMS

150 Go

Orange Forfait Mobile 5G – 70 Go

Unlimited calls

Unlimited SMS / MMS

70 Go

RED Forfait 5G – 130 Go

5 days

Unlimited calls

Unlimited SMS / MMS

130 Go

All 5G plans

To know everything about 5G

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