What do I need to know?
- 5G network coverage in France is available in most urban areas
- Each operator offers at least one 5G plan
- 5G plans are aimed at higher-value customers, but offer larger data allowances than 4G plans
- Free offers one plan to other operator’s 3-4, but provides the best deal and coverage
The first 5G networks launched in France at the end of 2020. SFR was the first, launching in November of that year, while its competitors followed in December. The country had over 30,000 5G sites at the end of March 2022, of which more than 12,000 used the 3.5GHz band, and 14,404 (all from Free Mobile) used 700MHz and 800MHz bands. The remainder are all in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands. According to telecoms regulator Arcep, Free has the most widespread 5G coverage.
Each operator offers several 5G plans, apart from Free, which offers a single plan. All of the operators’ 5G plans offer unlimited voice calling and messaging, and most offer a set amount of roaming data at 5G speeds. Of the four operators, SFR is the only one that has a plan with unlimited 5G data. Prices listed in this report are the 12-month promotional plan, except where noted otherwise, and do not include rebates for the operators’ fixed TV, voice and/or internet bundles.
What Are Operators Offering?
Orange offers three 5G plans, as per the table below. Like most of the rest of France’s operators, 5G plans are positioned toward premium subscribers, with larger data allowances to better show off the new network’s capabilities. Each plan also includes unlimited voice and SMS/MMS, while the highest-priced plan also includes unlimited voice and messaging in Europe, as well as unlimited calls to the US and Canada. The average price of 1GB on Orange’s 5G plans is EUR0.19 (EUR0.28 after 12 months).
|Plan||140Go 5G||150Go 5G||220Go 5G|
Orange’s 4G plans feature lower monthly prices and lower data allowances, but on the whole data costs more than on the 5G plans. Leaving aside Orange’s entry-level plan, which only features 100MB of data, 1GB of 4G data costs EUR1.03 on average (EUR1.34 after 12 months). The only plan with a comparable price per GB of data is the 80Go plan, which starts out at EUR14.99 for 80GB of 4G data.
There are four 5G plans on offer from Bouygues, generally at lower monthly prices than Orange but also with lower data allowances. One advantage of the Bouygues plans is that all but the cheapest 5G plan allow subscribers to use over half of their 5G allowance in Europe and in French Overseas Territories. The average price per GB is slightly higher than Orange, at EUR0.23 (or EUR0.35 after 12 months).
By contrast, there are only 3 plans offering 4G speeds, one of which is an entry-level plan with a data allowance of 100MB, while another is aimed at younger users and features a growing data allowance, from 1 to 10GB. Bouygues is even clearer about positioning its 4G plans for entry-level users.
Most of SFR’s plans are structured the same as Orange’s, with equivalent data allowances and prices. However, SFR is the only operator to offer a plan with unlimited data, whether on 4G or 5G. Each 5G plan also includes 100GB of data usable abroad, with the unlimited plan also making this allowance available in the US and Canada. Not counting the unlimited plan, SFR’s average cost per 1GB is EUR0.19 (or EUR0.28 after 12 months).
|Plan||140Go 5G||150Go 5G||220Go 5G||Illimité|
SFR’s range of 4G plans is less generous than Orange’s, in that it consists of three plans to Orange’s four. Both operators have entry-level plans priced at EUR3 for 100MB and 120 minutes of voice calling, and both offer an 80GB plan. SFR’s is cheaper, at EUR10 per month, though SFR’s markup after 12 months is larger, since it jumps to EUR30 per month, just like Orange’s equivalent plan. SFR’s only other 4G plan offers 5GB of data for EUR 12 per month, compared with 20GB and 2 hours of voice at EUR13.99 from Orange, or 10GB and unlimited voice at EUR21.99.
In offering just one 5G plan, challenger operator Free has the most straightforward set of plans, as well as the cheapest price per 1GB, at EUR0.10. Its Forfait Free 5G 210Go plan costs EUR19.99 per month, and comes with 210GB of data as well as unlimited voice and messaging, and 25GB of 4G data in over 70 foreign countries. Premium access to the Free Ligue 1 football app is also included. Also, unlike its competitors, Free’s monthly price doesn’t rise after 12 months.
Its only other plan costs EUR2 per month, for 50MB of 4G data (all of which is usable in Europe and French Overseas Territories) and 2 hours of voice calls.
La Poste Mobile is the only major Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that offers access to 5G networks, but its offering is notably more expensive than that of SFR, the network it uses. Its data allowances are less than half of what’s offered by SFR, and all have a higher monthly price except for the highest tier. La Poste Mobile’s 4G plans have the same data allowances, but cost less, as the company offers access to 5G as a EUR3 supplement on top of existing plan prices.
Among French operators, the best option for a 5G plan is Free, given its simple plan structure and the fact that its plan costs less than its rivals’ top-tier plans while offering a comparable data allowance. That also means that its price per GB is less than half that of its rivals’ top-tier plans, and significantly lower than their average price per GB.
|Plan||220Go 5G||240 Go||Illimité 5G||210 Go 5G|
The main advantage of the other operators’ top-tier plans is access to 5G data outside France, and typically in greater amounts than what Free offers. However, the price difference is stark enough that Free is clearly the best choice for consumers who want access to 5G networks, and want the greatest 5G network coverage.