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Free Mobile is now France’s biggest 5G network after canny spectrum bid

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Attributes breadth of service to its 700MHz use and speed to 3.5GHz options.

French mobile operator Free Mobile, an Iliad subsidiary, claims it has achieved the top spot among 5G network builders in the race to digitalisation. It's all thanks to canny bidding in the French spectrum auction of 2020.

In France, mobile operators build 5G services using the 700MHz, 2.1 GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum bands. Free Mobile uses frequencies in these bands which it bought in the French spectrum auction.

Described as a disruptive brand Free Mobile said its use of low-band frequencies at 700MHz achieved broad coverage and good indoor reception. This frequency is the channel for offering LTE services. In addition, its configuration of 70 megahertz in the midband spectrum at 3.5 GHz carries data at 'ultra-fast' speeds.

Free Mobile’s 5G network was launched in December 2020 with 5,255 active sites.

The mobile operator has grown its coverage from 52 to 62 per cent of the since May. At the end of 2020 its coverage was 40 per cent.

Free Mobile’s 5G network currently reaches 9,100 municipalities across France and has commissioned a total of 10,200 5G sites, reports RCR Wireless News. 

Many sites for 5G unused

France had a total of 28,018 5G authorised sites as of August 1, of which 16,517 are in use by local mobile carriers, according to France’s spectrum agency ANFR.

ANFR said that the number of authorised 5G sites during July increased by 7.4 per cent on the previous month.

Out of 17,9991 potential sites authorised in the 700 MHz band 10,914 are technically operational. Meanwhile, out of 9,955 sites authorised for use in the 2.1 GHz band only half (4,528) are technically operational. The same proportion of the 3.5 Ghz band sites has been taken up – 5.411 out of a potential of 10,815 approved sites.

French telco Orange has activated 5G in 160 cities across the country. Meanwhile, rival operator Bouygues Telecom said it expects to achieve nationwide coverage by the end of 2021, with a 5G network running on the 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands.