France now has 18,600 live LTE base station sites

Free Mobile rapidly turning on 2.6GHz spectrum as LTE networks expand across France. SFR-Numericable has fewer than half the number of LTE sites as Orange. Orange in early stages of preparing 1800MHz refarming.

There are now 18,600 live and commercial LTE base station sites in France, with another 3,000 already approved

Of these, over 12,000 are operating in the 800MHz band, just over 7,000 at 1800MHz and 15,000 at 2.6GHz.

France 4G antennasAgence National des Frequences shows that Orange has the most sites (7,902) with Bouygues Telecom in second with 6,756. Perhaps surprisingly for some, Free Mobile is in third with 4,648 sites with Numericable-SFR at 3,507 sites.

The agency said that there has been a 1% increase in the number of sites authorised over the past month.

4G in mainland FranceA look at the progress of site approvals shows a sharp rise for Free Mobile in the early part of 2015 – these are approvals for sites in the 2.6GHz spectrum band.

No 1800MHz deployments Orange

Bouygues still the only operator with LTE at 1800Mhz.

Orange 1800 MHz approvals

Orange has begun receiving 1800MHz site approvals.

Bouygue’s approvals line shows a spike in 1800 MHz and then a steadying, a result of the early approval won from regulator Arcep to refarm some of its existing 1800MHz spectrum for LTE.  By contrast, Orange does not show any 1800MHz authorisations until July 2015, when it clearly started submitting applications pending approval from Arcep (received in August) to also be allowed to refarm 1800MHz. None of those sites have yet been deployed however, as Orange is not permitted to refarm within its 2x20MHz of 1800MHz spectrum until March 2016.

In 800MHz spectrum there has been a more matched process between Orange, Numericable-SFR and Bouygues (Free Mobile has no 800MHz holdings).

Authorisations vs live sites in service in France, 1 October 2015

Authorisations vs live sites in service in France, 1 October 2015 (click to expand)

All of the operators have more approvals for sites than they have sites in live service, but Free Mobile is the operator sitting on the greatest immediate expansion potential, with over 6,000 sites authorised, but just 4,648 now live.