The first mixed performances of 5G networks in France

One year after the allocation of 5G frequencies, the new mobile networks represent only a modest gain, if not nonexistent, for many consumers. This is the observation that appears on reading the survey of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (Arcep), published Friday, November 19.

The telecommunications “gendarme” carried out more than a million tests on different facets of mobile networks between May and September in mainland France with, for the first time, data on 5G performance. Arcep has tested, under equivalent conditions, the connection for a user who has a plan and a phone eligible for 5G with that of an Internet user with a 4G plan and an old-generation phone.

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The verdict is generally disappointing. In rural and mid-range areas, the average downstream speed of users equipped with 5G, that is, the speed at which they can open a web page or file, is not better than that of others. It is only in dense areas that the efficiency of new networks appears with, for example, an average speed of 227 megabits per second (Mbit / s) at Orange against 148 Mbit / s without 5G equipment, or 53% what’s more.

Flagrant disparities between operators

These measures do not call into question the new networks as such. “5G is still in its infancy. Its performance will improve and new features can gradually be offered by operators. There is always a phase of acclimatization and optimization of new technologies, which was also observed for 4G when it was launched ”, recalls Guillaume Decorzent, head of the coverage and mobile investments unit at Arcep.

Reassuring point: the tests during which smartphones have “hooked” on 5G, that is to say they were able to use the new network, are carried out at speeds appreciably higher than those of 4G, order of twice as much at Orange, SFR or Bouygues Telecom.

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The bad figures for 5G come above all from the fact that the measures go back to a still early stage of the deployments of the new antennas: the subscriber gains nothing, or almost, because there is no 5G yet. near. There were around 8,000 5G antennas active in France at the end of 2020, against more than 21,000 in mid-November 2021. The trend is set to continue in the years to come.

There are still glaring disparities between operators. Thus, the regulator’s figures are more likely to make Orange smile: the average speeds observed at the operator are higher than those of the competition in all types of zone, in 4G as in 5G. Asked by The world, he congratulates himself on having privileged “A real gain in network performance, and not the display of a logo”. The operator sees it as a validation of its strategy, which consisted in favoring the best 5G frequencies, on the 3.5 gigahertz band, and to begin its deployment in dense areas rather than targeting the greatest number of short-term antennas.

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