France sets 5G road map with ‘ambitious’ targets

Many of France's 5G trials are based in Paris. (Pixabay)

Of all the countries mentioned in the “race to 5G,” one that doesn’t get a lot of attention is France. But the country has now established a road map for 5G that includes what it describes as ambitious targets.

The targets include allocating new 5G frequencies and ensuring a commercial rollout in at least one major city by 2020, which doesn’t sound terribly ambitious by U.S. standards—operators here are talking about rolling out 5G-dubbed markets this year. But considering that France still needs to pick up the pace of 4G rollouts, its commitment to 5G may seem grand in comparison.

French government officials presented their plan this week, saying 5G is strategically vital to France’s economy.  

The first trials are already underway or in the planning stage in Belfort, Bordeaux, Douai, Grenoble, Lannion, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Toulouse and Sophia-Antipolis. The government and Arcep also announced the launch of 11 new trials in the Ile-de-France region, including three connected vehicle use cases.

France’s 5G roadmap draws on the feedback the government obtained from a consultation that ended earlier this year and incorporates Arcep’s work program. Four major courses of action were identified: 

  • free up and allocate radio frequencies for 5G networks
  • foster the development of new uses
  • support the deployment of 5G infrastructures
  • ensure transparency and dialog over 5G rollouts and keep the public informed

France sees making 5G a priority as consistent with the actions being taken at the European level to meet the growing demand for connectivity and to make European Union countries more competitive.

RELATED: CTIA to FCC: Move forward on 3.5 GHz to ensure U.S. wins race to 5G

While it might appear that France is off to a slow start in 5G, notes that momentum seems to be gathering, including in mid-band spectrum, which is where CTIA says the U.S. lags. Arcep opened a 5G pilot window in January and has approved 22 trials in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band since then, according to the publication. Most of these trials are based in Paris.

In a report by Analysys Mason that ranked 10 countries with developed wireless markets across key factors to compare current 5G readiness efforts, France came in at No. 7, behind Germany, the U.K., Japan, U.S., South Korea and China. Countries were evaluated based on spectrum and infrastructure policies, industry investment and overall government support.

That same study found that China holds a narrow lead in overall 5G readiness ahead of South Korea and the U.S. CTIA argues that the race to 5G internationally is real and should be taken seriously if the U.S. wants to maintain its global leadership and commercial investments.