France's operators gear up for LTE Advanced

Bouygues Telecom this week announced the launch of commercial LTE Advanced (LTE-A) services in a number of towns and cities across France, and SFR and Orange also took the opportunity to provide an update on their LTE-A rollout strategies.

Bouygues Telecom said LTE-A--also now being dubbed 4G+--will first be available in Lyon, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Vanves, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Malakoff and Rosny-sous-Bois, extending to 16 of France's largest towns and cities after the summer. The operator added that it is able to offer maximum download speeds of up to 220 Mbps, and is not charging extra for the new service.

Consumers will be able to buy the Hotspot Bbox Nomad 4G+ from July 1, with 4G+ compatible smartphones expected to be available after the summer. Customers of Bouygues Telecom Entreprises will also be able to buy "la box 4G+" from Huawei in July.

Orange, meanwhile, said it plans to open its LTE-A network in Toulouse and Strasbourg in July and will enable subscribers of its Lets Go mobile broadband plans to use the service free of charge using a 4G+ version of the Domino WiFi router that can connect up to five mobile devices. An Orange spokeswoman told FierceWireless:Europe that the operator is now waiting for OEMs to start selling LTE-A enabled smartphones on the market.

The spokeswoman added that the operator plans to offer LTE-A services in around 14 of France's largest towns by the beginning of 2015. She noted that Orange's LTE network now covers 60 per cent of the population and had 1.4 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter of this year.

SFR, which is in the process of being acquired by Altice-owned Numericable, also said it plans to launch LTE-A in a large French city by the end of this year, according to comments made by the company's network marketing director, Alexandre Wauquiez, during a telecoms event organised by Les Echos earlier in June.

The moves by France's operators to further evolve their networks come against the backdrop of an increasingly fraught campaign by the French government to drive consolidation in the mobile market.

As things stand, Bouygues Telecom is planning to cut around 1500 jobs to ensure its survival in a market with four operators. The government still hopes that Orange or Iliad, which owns the fourth mobile operator Free Mobile, will be able to agree on a deal with the Bouygues Group to buy its telecoms unit.

For more:
- see this release by Bouygues Telecom (in French)
- see this La Revue du Digital article (translated by Google Translate)

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