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Free Mobile claims largest 5G network in France in terms of cell sites

French mobile operator Free Mobile, a subsidiary of Illiad, said its 5G network continues to be the largest in terms of cell sites, which results from its rollout on 700 MHz frequencies. The carrier also uses those airwaves to provide LTE services.

The operator’s website states that its 5G footprint currently covers 62% of the population, up from 52% in mid-May and nearly 40% at the end of 2020.

Free Mobile said that its 5G network currently reaches 9,100 municipalities across France. It also said the firm had already commissioned a total of 10,200 5G sites.

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

The operator said that its current spectrum enables broad coverage and good indoor reception thanks to low-band frequencies at 700 MHz, as well as “ultra-fast” speeds, thanks to 70 megahertz in the midband at 3.5 GHz.

Free Mobile launched its 5G network in December 2020 with 5,255 active sites.

France had a total of 28,018 5G authorized sites as of August 1, of which 16,517 were declared technically operational by the local mobile carriers, according to the latest information provided by France’s spectrum agency ANFR.

ANFR said that the number of authorized 5G sites during July increased by 7.4% compared to the previous month.

The agency said that almost all of the 5G sites have been authorized on existing cellular sites, already used by 2G, 3G or 4G technologies.

In France, mobile operators are already providing 5G services through the 700 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum bands.

The agency said that a total of 17,9991 sites are authorized in the 700 MHz band (Free Mobile), of which 10,914 are already technically operational. Also, ANFR said that 9,955 sites are authorized in the 2.1 GHz band (Bouygues Telecom, Orange and SFR), but 4,528 are technically operational.

Meanwhile, 10,815 sites are authorized in the 3.5 GHz band (Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR), of which 5,411 are declared technically operational.

French telco Orange has already activated 5G in 160 cities across the country, the operator’s CEO Stéphane Richard previously said in an interview with local newspaper Jornal du Dimanche. Some of the initial cities covered by Orange’s 5G network include Marseille, Nice, Le Mans and Angers. Orange initially launched commercial 5G services in 15 municipalities at the beginning of December 2020.

Also in December 2020, Bouygues Telecom initially launched 5G in 20 cities across France. The French operator said it expects to achieve nationwide coverage by the end of 2021. The current roll-out phase will rely on the 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands.

Meanwhile, SFR initially launched its 5G commercial network in Nice in November.


Juan Pedro Tomás
Juan Pedro covers Global Carriers and Global Enterprise IoT. Prior to RCR, Juan Pedro worked for Business News Americas, covering telecoms and IT news in the Latin American markets. He also worked for Telecompaper as their Regional Editor for Latin America and Asia/Pacific. Juan Pedro has also contributed to Latin Trade magazine as the publication's correspondent in Argentina and with political risk consultancy firm Exclusive Analysis, writing reports and providing political and economic information from certain Latin American markets. He has a degree in International Relations and a master in Journalism and is married with two kids.

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