July 1, 2022

Free, first on the deployment of 5G, last on speeds

Arcep singles out the quality of Free’s 5G network. The operator’s choice to deploy 5G on all frequency bands, including the 700 MHz bands, results in very poor performance vis-à-vis its rivals Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom. However, the operator claims the “largest 5G network in France”.

Free, first on the deployment of 5G, last on speeds

Arcep has just put online its latest survey concerning the deployment of 5G and the speeds observed. This survey focused on the quality of 5G service, differentiating between dense areas and intermediate or rural areas.

Orange far ahead in terms of network quality

As expected, Orange offers the best downlink speeds, with an average of 142 Mbit / s across France. Orange 5G users in dense areas, where most 5G sites are deployed, achieve an average speed of 227 Mbit / s.

The second operator is SFR, with 84 Mbit / s on average throughout France and 145 Mbit / s only in dense areas, then Bouygues Telecom (71 Mbit / s on average, 130 Mbit / s in dense areas). Where Free is last with 31 Mbit / s on average, with little difference between dense areas and intermediate or rural areas.

Free, first on the deployment of 5G, last on speeds

However, if we look at the 5G deployment figures, Free is the leading mobile operator with 10,229 5G sites (end of May 2021), then Bouygues Telecom comes second with only 2,943 sites. Note that the same site can be equipped with several frequency bands to provide 5G technology. Thus, the total number of sites may be less than the sum of the sites distributed according to the frequency bands.

as of June 30, 2021 700 MHz 2100 MHz 3500 MHz Number of 5G sites
Bouygues Telecom 0 2655 1008 2943
Free Mobile 10229 0 1136 10229
Orange 0 298 1597 1872
SFR 0 976 1005 1751

If we look exclusively at the number of 5G sites, without taking into account the frequency bands used, Free is far ahead of its competitors. However, the 700 MHz and 2100 MHz bands allow 4G and 5G to coexist, in practice we are seeing an increase of about 15% more speeds than in 4G +.

Conversely, 5G on the 3.5 GHz frequency band allows much higher speeds to be obtained. We have also found downlink speeds that can go beyond 1 Gbit / s during our first tests on the Orange network.

This explains the differences in flow rates seen in the Arcep survey. Orange focuses on the deployment of 5G in the 3500 MHz bands, where the speeds are better.

You can use one of the tools or maps to identify the antennas around you and check which frequency bands are used. For the moment, 5G is activated mainly in large cities.

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