5G is on. The fifth generation of mobile telephony is becoming a reality in France, while Arcep, the authority which regulates the telecoms sector, authorizes from this Wednesday, November 18 the operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free to operate their network new generation mobile.
The four French operators thus join the thirty or so players who have already switched to 5G in Europe. “At SFR, we are ready, 5G, we believe a lot”, says a spokesperson for the company, who is discreet about future prices. Regarding the latter, Idate, a firm specializing in the digital economy, identifies two ways of proceeding: “premiumization” (offering premium offers) and generalization.
→ EXPLANATION. 5G: should it be deployed?
“Premiumisation itself is of two kinds, explains one of the cabinet members. One possibility for the operator is to say: “If you want 5G, it’s so many euros more expensive than for 4G”, as when switching from ADSL to fiber. This strategy has not been very successful in other countries, and has not really worked for a switch from 3G to 4G. “The other possibility of ‘premiumisation’ is more subtle, resumes the analyst. It consists, for the operator, in affirming that if all its plans are not in 5G, those who will be will benefit from the most important data envelopes (the volume of data, editor’s note). Customers are then attracted to higher prices by using 5G as a complementary value attribute. “ This is the way of doing things that operators should favor, initially.
Great caution recommended
In this context, consumer associations recommend great caution. “A consumer investing in a terminal equipped for 5G may find himself, because of his new package, bound by a commitment over twelve or twenty-four months, points out Antoine Autier of UFC-Que Choisir. While prices, through the effects of competition, may fall within a few months. “ The alternative path to that making 5G an object reserved for a few happy few is therefore that of generalization, inspired by what Bouygues and Free had done several years ago with 4G. Their respective ranges of packages had been massively converted to this new generation of mobile telephony, which had the effect of lowering its cost for the consumer and making it widespread.
For image issues, operators are urged to be pioneers on 5G. “40% of the mobiles we currently sell are compatible with this technology“, notes Laetitia Orsini-Sharps, director of multi-service offers at Orange. However, the spread of 5G can only be very gradual: the park must be given time to renew itself, the French consumer only changing phones, on average, every twenty-eight months. The rise of 5G should not be effective until the second half of 2021, according to Stéphane Richard, the CEO of Orange who “Do not expect large volumes this winter”.
Commercial success also depends on the deployment of the infrastructure. To date, the National Frequency Agency has identified a little less than 500 antennas spread over the nine selected test cities, including Paris, Marseille, Lille, Nantes. 5G customers have the promise of improved throughput, passing larger volumes of data in less time. But on condition of being close to one of these branches …
An essentially urban success expected
However, the customer experience shouldn’t be fundamentally different from 4G. Especially if it accesses 5G through its lowest frequency band, 700 MHz, which has the advantage of long range but cannot carry much more data than 4G. “We would like Arcep to require operators to distinguish the quality of the coverage areas, explains Antoine Autier. It only issued “recommendations”, which, legally, is not opposable. “
The success of 5G should therefore be primarily urban, at least within the next two years. ” In a district like La Défense, west of Paris, at 5 p.m., 5G will prevent network saturation, one points out to Idate. But as the volume of data exchanged grows by 40% per year, it will prove useful across the country within two years. “ The deployment of antennas should make it possible to unclog networks, which is the main virtue of 5G according to its promoters. Even if these promises will only be truly kept from 2023-2024, when the networks will be sufficiently deployed.
Three bands for 5G
The new generation of mobile telephony is based on three spectrum bands:
– the lowest band, 700 MHz, has the characteristics closest to 4G.
– the band between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz, considered the main 5G band, offering a good compromise between the volume of data transported and the range.
– the 26 GHz band, also called “millimeter”. It is used to transport a very large volume of data to a specific location (stadium, station, port, etc.). The range being low, it supposes the installation of numerous antennas.