Free Mobile takes the lead in the 5G race. According to data provided by Arcep, Xavier Niel’s operator has deployed more 5G sites in France than SFR, Orange and Bouygues Télécom. Unlike its competitors, the telecoms troublemaker essentially relies on antennas in the 700 MHz band for 5G. Thanks to that approach, Free Mobile offers better 5G coverage than its rivals.
This Thursday, January 14, 2021, the Telecoms Authority (Arcep) published the first figures concerning the number of 5G sites opened commercially in France as of December 31, 2020. At the top of the ranking, we find Free Mobile with an impressive total of 5,640 5G sites in France. Between December 15 and 31, the operator deployed 357 more antennas.
The second place is occupied by Bouygues Telecom. The Martin Bouygues operator has opened 1,500 5G sites in France, including 79 additional branches since December 15. It is followed by SFR, with 793 5G sites dispatched on French territory. The red square operator deployed a total of 500 sites at the end of December. Finally, once is not customary, Orange brings up the rear with only 742 5G sites. At the end of December, the incumbent operator added only 15 antennas to its fleet.
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How Free Mobile took the lead in the 5G race?
Free Mobile’s considerable advance over 5G is due to the massive use of antennas in the 700 MHz band. For their part, Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécom rely more on 5G at 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz. Rather than deploying sites dedicated solely to 5G, the telecoms troublemaker is content to convert 4G antennas to 5G stations thanks to Dynamic Spectrum Sharing technology. This approach allows Free Mobile to offer 5G coverage greater than that of Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécom.
On the other hand, the 700 MHz band offers lower average flow rates than the 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands chosen by other operators. Orange, which mainly relies on 3.5 GHz, even believes that Free Mobile offers “false 5G” to its subscribers. The incumbent operator considers that only the 3.5 GHz band can be considered as true 5G in view of its high speeds.