Bouygues Telecom was the first off the 5G blocks in France in 2019, with the announcement just days into the new year that it successfully made a 5G call in the city of Lyon, using equipment from Ericsson and Qualcomm Technology.
Bouygues Telecom said the call took place in “real conditions” and used a terminal based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 modem. It also said the equipment, including an Ericsson antenna, is compatible with the 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) Non-Standalone (NSA) standard.
Lyon is now the second city where Bouygues Telecom has conducted a 5G trial; it opened its first 5G pilot in Bordeaux in July 2018. The operator said it has now expanded the number of active 5G test sites to 11. Notably, Bouygues has been collaborating with Huawei on 5G after signing a 5G partnership with the increasingly controversial Chinese vendor at Mobile World Congress 2018.
Like rivals Orange and Altice-owned SFR, Bouygues Telecom has been ramping up 5G trials in 3.5 GHz spectrum over the past year with the aim of launching commercial 5G services in 2020. The three operators have been making use of frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band that are being allocated by French telecoms regulator Arcep on a temporary basis for 5G trials. The regulator first offered temporary licenses in the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands in January 2018.
Orange, which formed a 5G partnership with Ericsson in 2016 and is also working with Nokia, has been conducting texts in Douai, Lille, Linas-Montlhéry, Marseille, and Paris. SFR, for its part, reached speeds of 2.3 Gb/s in 5G tests in Paris using equipment from Cisco and Huawei and has also been trialing equipment from Nokia.
According to French radio frequency agency ANFR, it authorized 25 new 5G sites in the 3.5 GHz band during November 2018. Orange now operates 22 5G test sites, while ANFR said it has authorized 19 5G sites for Bouygues Telecom. The agency added that eight experimental 5G sites were also authorized in Toulouse for SFR in November.
For sure, the level of activity among the mobile network operators is eagerly supported and promoted at government level. Although France will not be the first globally with commercial 5G, it is keen to be at the vanguard of 5G and has set out an ambitious action plan that includes new spectrum allocations.
As things stand, Arcep has already held public consultations on the terms and conditions for releasing and using the 3.5 GHz, 26 GHz and 1.4 GHz bands. In October 2018, it launched a new public consultation that is designed to “inform Arcep’s actions going forward” with a view to spectrum allocations in these bands. Licenses in the 700 MHz band were allocated to the operators in 2015. For now, the main goals are to allocate all frequencies and complete commercial rollout in at least one major city by 2020, and cover the main transport routes by 2025.