When is 5G coming to France and what does it mean for you?

France's telecoms regulator has officially launched the process to allocate operators frequencies for next-generation 5G mobile telephone networks. But what does the arrival of 5G mean, especially for people in the 'white zones' of poor or non-existent coverage?

When is 5G coming to France and what does it mean for you?
The next generation of mobile phone networks is coming to France next year. Here's a look at what that means. 

What exactly is the plan?

The French government has announced that 5G mobile phone services will be rolled out across France, and the programme will start in 2020.

The networks that want to get access to the 5G networks – which is expected to be all of the big players in the French market – must have their bids in to the government by the end of 2019 so work can start at the start of 2020.

Regulator Arcep said it will, in a mixed tender process, offer the initial batch of frequencies at a fixed price and then hold an auction for the rest.
Arcep has started the process with a public consultation, which will finish on September 4th. The frequencies will be allocated a few weeks after this, allowing legal completion at the start of 2020 and the first commercial rollout at the end of that year.

France is “not among the first” to allocate 5G frequencies in Europe but “is not late”, Sebastien Soriano, the president of Arcep, told reporters. 

Germany in June raised some €6.5 billion from the sale of 5G frequencies to telecoms firms in a three-month auction, far exceeding expectations.

The tiny principality of Monaco this month became the first country in Europe to inaugurate a 5G mobile phone network based on technology from Chinese firm Huawei, which is seen by the US as a major security risk. 

And what is 5G?

A better, faster mobile phone data service basically. You will notice now if your phone drops from 4G down to 3G all internet services get a lot slower and some sites, especially those with lots of pictures or videos, just won't load at all. Well 5G is one step better than 4G, and the speed of data transmission will apparently be multiplied by many thousand.

Stéphane Richard, the CEO of Orange France, told RTL: “5G will allow much faster speeds and much less latency.

“It encourages use in real time. For example, the connected car needs to establish connectivity between vehicles to the millisecond and the 5G will be perfect for that. Or, during a remote surgical operation, you need a doctor to pilot a small robot that will operate on you, so you can imagine that latency should be as low as possible and network security should be perfect.”

As well as faster downloading, the higher speeds and lower latency will mean that any situation where two machines need to 'talk' to each other – from Facetiming to video-gaming, will have fewer annoying freezes.

What networks will be offering it?

We don't know at this stage, as operators have until the end of the year to put their bids in, but Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free all paid up to be able to install 4G when that was introduced. Once the network is rolled out, operators then have to install base stations to transmit 5G, and users will need to get a new 5G compatible phone.

Never mind downloading videos, where I live I can barely make a call.

Yes, although telecoms maps show the 4G network currently covering almost all of France, the reality is that in many -mostly rural – areas of France service remains patchy and a signal is hard to get.

There are still a few zone blanches where there is no signal at all – taking in about one percent of France – but far more zones grises, where the signal is patchy and poor. And the bad news is that although there is a government plan to tackle zones blaches, there is no plan for the patchy zones, and the 5G rollout is unlikely to help. If, however, you live in an area that has a reasonable phone signal but poor broadband internet connection, you may be able to use your phone for many more of the things you currently struggle with on a desktop or tablet connection.  

French vocab

Mobile phone – téléphone portable, or just portable

Mobile phone dead zones – une zone blanche

To download – télécharger

5G – La 5G   

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France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier