Since its launch in November 2020 in France, 5G has gradually been deployed by all operators. This fifth generation of mobile networks promises a technological turning point and to revolutionize usage. As its deployment accelerates throughout France, we decided to take stock of 5G. With a few months delay compared to its European neighbors, France joined the race for 5G in November 2020. This was an important step for the fifth generation of mobile networks, which promises to disrupt usage in the coming years. Since its launch, its deployment has accelerated on our territory and more and more compatible smartphones and plans are available.
What is 5G?
As its name suggests, 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks. It succeeds the 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies that accompanied mobile telephony from the 1980s to 2020. The first technologies focused on calls or sending SMS. It wasn’t until 3G that new uses began to develop, such as connecting to the internet or accessing applications. These uses exploded with the advent of 4G, which also popularized video calls. At its inception, 5G will be closer to 4G and presents itself as an evolution of the latter. However, 5G is an evolving technology that will gradually enrich to support new uses. As the French National Frequencies Agency explains, “5G will continue to improve existing services in the consumer field by providing access to video content of better definition [4K, 8K] and promoting the development of augmented or virtual reality applications”. It will also bring new features in many sectors such as transportation, industry of the future, agriculture, medicine, public safety, smart cities, and energ
What benefits does 5G offer?
5G will follow the path traced by previous technologies by bringing three major improvements: speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G, low latency (from 10 to 1 millisecond compared to 4G), and support for a large number of simultaneous connections. These elements are the three major advantages of 5G, but they are not the only benefits of this technology. Initially, the fifth generation of mobile networks should mainly allow for the relief of the 4G network. It risks saturation, and performance could degrade in some major cities. Thanks to the addition of new frequencies, 5G can avoid network saturation and respond to the explosion of mobile data consumption. In France, three 5G frequency bands will be used: the “700 MHz” band, the “3.5 GHz” band considered the “core band” of 5G, and the 26 GHz band, which must accompany the 5G “revolution” in the coming years. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, the 700 MHz band will offer low speeds and better coverage while the mmWave (26 GHz) offers very high speeds with low range. The sub-6 band offers a good compromise between coverage and speed.
Note that frequencies among seven-hundred MHz and 2.1 GHz were already used for 4G. These so-called “low” frequencies are regularly referred to as “fake 5G,” as opposed to “real” 5G, which is deployed in 3.5 GHz. By not making the distinction, one can have a false image of 5G and its advantages.
Choosing a 5G plan in France: Tips and considerations
The four major French operators – Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile – now offer 5G plans. In addition, there are also offers available through a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Instead of reviewing all the currently available plans, here are some tips to help you choose the right 5G plan. Before subscribing, it is necessary to assess your needs and usage to find the plan that suits you. In addition to the price, it is important to carefully examine the main features of the plan (calls, SMS, data, data from Europe) and the fine print (international calls, out-of-plan prices, etc.). In this regard, it may be interesting to look at the classic or low-cost offers that operators provide. Depending on your situation, plans with or without a commitment present different advantages. As for 5G, its deployment is gradual and may vary depending on the geographical location. Operators prioritize large cities in the first phase, but the deployment is progressing quickly. As of May 31, 2021, according to the ARCEP, more than 15,000 sites were commercially open, with disparities between operators. Across all frequencies, Free Mobile led the way with 9,574 sites, followed by Bouygues Telecom (2,639 sites), Orange (1,659 sites) and SFR (1,520
Should you switch to 5G?
The 5G is an evolving technology and telecommunication operators are still in their early stages. As we explained at the end of last year, it is important to distinguish between “real” 5G and “fake” 5G. The improvements brought by this fifth generation will only be visible in the coming months or years. For now, 5G will relieve the 4G network before becoming the expected revolution. Some improvements are already visible and opting for a 5G smartphone, which is becoming popular among manufacturers, allows you to be prepared.
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