Our first operator-level analysis of the French mobile market shows that there is plenty of differentiation between users’ mobile network experience on each of France’s networks, with the Download Speed Experience observed by our users ranging from 20.4 Mbps on Free Mobile to 41.7 Mbps on Orange. Similarly, 4G Availability on Free Mobile was below 80%, while users on SFR and Bouygues observed scores in excess of 90%. There was less variation between operators in terms of our experiential metrics, particularly in terms of Voice App Experience, which assesses users’ experience when using over-the-top voice apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger.
However, Orange managed to scoop all three awards for these measures of the mobile experience — Video Experience, Games Experience, Voice App Experience — along with three other awards: Download Speed Experience, Upload Speed Experience and 4G Coverage Experience. The only one of our awards that it failed to win was 4G Availability, where SFR and Bouygues tied for first place.
French mobile subscribers seeking a big leap in the quality of their experience will need to be patient, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The French spectrum regulator, ARCEP, announced back in April that it has postponed the auction of 5G spectrum in the valuable 3.4-3.8 GHz band, due to the crisis. Given the after shock of Free Mobile’s disruptive market entry in early 2012 with extremely low pricing, it will be interesting to see how French operators embrace 5G. Will they seek to differentiate on network quality? Or will France’s operators use 5G’s arrival to herald a new price war that hinders network investment and damages users’ mobile experience as a result? Once the 5G spectrum auction happens, we will see early signs of how this will develop.
In this report, we've analyzed our data gathered in the 90 days from the start of February 2020 to see how France’s four national operators — Orange, SFR, Free Mobile and Bouygues — measure up.