If you have moved around in France, you will have noticed the that different areas have (very) varying degrees of internet connection.
A drive into the countryside will often see a super speed 4G connection derail into to a snails-pace 3G.
While that might be annoying, there are some areas of France that still have no connection at all – what's called a zone blanche (white zone).
What is a zone blanche?
Une zone blanche is the French term for areas that are not covered by any mobile network. That means no phone signal and no internet connection at all – what in English is called a 'dead zone' or even 'notspot' (as opposed to hotspot).
Areas with only one or two mobile operators are called zones grises (grey zones), which means there is phone reception, but that reception can be very patchy.
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How many zones blanches are there left?
Not many. France's dead spots have been shrinking for years, and the government has vowed to get rid of them completely.
In 2018 the government launched a “New Deal Mobile” together with France's four big phone operators – Free, Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SRF – that sought to identify and target disconnected places and get them connected.
In the two years that followed France increased the areas covered by at least one phone operator from 89 to 96 percent, according to Arcep, the agency in charge of regulating telecommunications in France, which regularly publishes reports on the progress of the New Deal.
Where are these areas?
Zones blanches can be found in sparsely populated rural areas, in the mountains or in the countryside, where mobile operators find it too expensive to install their networks.
Despite the state's efforts to rub them off the map, there are still zones blanches, as shown in the map below.
Photo: Screenshot of Arcep/monreseaumobile.fr
Dark red spots on the map have “very good” mobile coverage, lighter red ones have “good” coverage, whereas the pink ones have “limited coverage”.
For a closer view, go to the full interactive map (link HERE) to see what the status is around your area.
Even Parisian suburbs have dead zones. The map below shows the remaining dead spots in the greater Paris region Ile-de-France.
— Le Parisien Infog (@LeParisienInfog) November 10, 2020
As you can see, many are located in forests, but there are others that are just small glitches on the map.
That explains both what happens on that road trip out of the capital when your phone just suddenly has no signal at all for a bit, but also why providing exact details of all France's remaining dead spots is quite a challenge.
“I cannot quantify them,” Arcep boss Sébastien Soriano told Le Parisien. “But our coverage programme still provides for the creation of several thousand sites for several years.”
Soriano added: “The goal is 100 percent 4G coverage by the end of 2022.”
But whether or not they would reach that goal depended, he added, on the government not tightening the rules of the second lockdown to impact the work of installers.
While areas with no coverage at all are gradually shrinking, what is still quite common in more out-of-way areas is coverage that is patchy or unreliable.
So if you're planning a move to the countryside – especially if you want to work online from your rural retreat – definitely check out the speed of local internet coverage and the connection on your phone.
And don't be fooled by people telling you that fibre-optic broadbrand is 'coming soon' to the area – some villages have been expecting this any day now for several years.
Zone blanche – dead spot (area without phone coverage or wifi)
access sans fil à internet – wifi (correct, but rare)
le wifi – wifi (the Anglo variant, which is much more common)
Mot de passe – password
Cliquer – click
Fenêtre – tab or window