While 5G is already on in a dozen European countries, France for its part was slow. As of today, 5G is available in France … certainly at a very embryonic stage.
5G is finally here and it’s going to have a huge impact on our lives, with faster download speeds and lower latency. These changes will theoretically open up new horizons, from smartphones to self-driving cars.
But that future is not yet here. Mobile operators have taken a new step, the 5G network is finally accessible to the general public. Here is where we are now.
“5G, I don’t understand a thing”
5G is the next generation of wireless networks. You could qualify it as a “4G network update” but it’s a bit more complicated than that. We advise you to read our file dedicated to 5G which looks at many aspects of this technology: how it works, its interests, but also social issues.
“Is 5G available now? “
The simple answer is… yes. But obviously, it’s more complicated than that.
Already, you need a compatible smartphone. It’s not very complicated, most smartphones are now compatible. This is the case with all high-end Android smartphones, with the exception of a few specific models, as well as the latest iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. On Android, some mid-range smartphones are compatible with prices from 350 euros such as the OnePlus North and the Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite 5G.
Ensuite, you need a compatible mobile plan. Orange and Bouygues Telecom have already announced 5G offers, we are still awaiting offers from SFR and Free Mobile. Orange is the first to launch 5G, from November 18, 2020, which is not the case for other mobile operators. SFR has announced that 5G will be launched instead.
Finally, you must have an active 5G antenna nearby. It is possible to identify them thanks to the Cartoradio tool set up by Arcep. Select your operator, then deselect 2G, 3G and 4G. As you can see, most of the big cities are concerned: Marseille, Lille, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes or even Rouen. Overseas, it is in Réunion that you can find 5G antennas.
The activation of 5G antennas will continue for many, many years. For updates to existing antennas and the installation of new antennas, there are long and tedious administrative procedures. Mobile operators must submit requests to the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) for each deployment of 5G antennas. This deployment must be accompanied by an information file for mayors (DIM), this is a request from the government to oblige operators to systematically inform mayors.
In short, if all these conditions are met, you will be able to access 5G on your smartphone.
“Is the real 5G available? “
The launch of 5G today is a first step in the deployment of 5G Non-Standalone which operates the 4G network. This 5G Non-Standalone relies on 4G to function: the connection uses 4G LTE while 5G carriers are used to increase data rates and reduce latency. This 5G uses frequencies from 3.4 to 3.8 GHz which were auctioned by Arcep this year, ie 5G qualified as “sub 6”, lower than 6 GHz. French mobile operators will also be able to deploy 5G on 700 MHz and 1800 MHz, but also at 2100 MHz.
Even with this 5G “sub 6”, you will get much better results than 4G, we expect speeds between 400 Mbits and 1.2 Gbits, as well as a latency below 10 ms. These performances are very close to what optical fiber offers.
5G + is what can be described as “real” 5G, it will exploit a new network architecture well and will be deployed much later with millimeter waves (the bands mmWave). In addition to frequencies below 6 GHz, it will use new, much higher frequencies in bands above 24 GHz. These new frequency bands will make it possible in particular to achieve very high speeds to meet localized needs for mobile networks in very dense areas.
As you can see, the 5G framework will appreciate in stages.
“Is 5G more expensive than 4G? “
Yes, at the moment 5G plans are more expensive than 4G plans.
Bouygues Telecom is the first operator to present its 5G offers to the public last June. Its range of Sensation packages offers three volumes of mobile data – 60, 90 and 120 GB -, with unlimited Internet on weekends for each of them. For 60 GB, the price of the 5G plan starts at € 26.99 / month for 12 months.
Orange offers four compatible packages, from 70 GB at 39.99 euros / month (24.99 euros for the first 12 months) up to a plan with unlimited data at 94.99 euros (79.99 euros for the first 12 months).
Mobile operators have favored mobile plans with commitment for 5G, we do not find 5G on offers without commitment. Note, however, that these offers with commitment have additional options, Orange and Bouygues Telecom offer multi-SIM for example with its 4G plans compatible with 5G.
We will certainly have to wait several months before seeing the arrival of 5G on more affordable offers.
“Should we go for 5G now? “
No, it is not recommended. The network coverage is very weak for this launch, the mobile operators are not all in battle order. Only Orange is ready for a commercial launch on November 18, 2020.
According to U.S, we must wait at least until summer 2021 before looking at 5G offers. Major major cities will begin to have multiple active 5G sites, as French mobile operators have deployment obligations. By 2022, each operator will have to have deployed 3,000 5G sites, then 8,000 in 2024 (including 4,000 in low density areas) and 10,500 in 2025 (including 2,625 in low density areas). This trajectory is described as “demanding”, but operators are free to go further than these levels – competition will certainly encourage a relative outbidding.