By October 2023 France has a very fierce mobile communication industry consisting of four significant French mobile operators and several MVNOs. It is usually confusing to pick up the correct mobile operators because of several numbers involved.
This article is an overview of mobile operator in France, the things that one need to have in mind before choosing an operator, and also gives a clear comparison between some of the best France mobile operators,the author cites the above points as well.
Table of Contents
1. List of Mobile Operators in France
France has over 50 mobile operators providing cell phone and data services. They can be broadly categorized into:
1.1. Main Mobile Operators in France
These are the four major mobile network operators in France with nationwide 4G/5G coverage:
- Orange – Orange is the current telecom operator in France and has more than 26 million mobile subscribers. It provides high-speed connection in France.
- SFR – SFR ranks as the number two private operator controlled by Altice and has approximately twenty-two million customers. It also boasts a self-owned network that extends across France.
- Bouygues Telecom – Bouygues Telecom is the third largest operator that is serving 11+ million mobile subscribers. The company has been constantly expanding its 4G/5G network coverage in France.
- Free Mobile – Free Mobile is one of the young players in this market introduced in 2012. Nevertheless, it has since developed into the second largest operator after 3 years with more than thirteen million users. With cheap and competitive call plans, Free Mobile challenged the French telecommunication market.
1.2. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in France
Apart from the large networks, there are more than 40 French MVNOs. They are wireless competitors that don’t have their own network operations, but use those of major operators.
For instance, La Poste Mobile, NRJ Mobile, CIC Mobile, Auchan Telecom, Coriolis, and other French MVNOs are famous.
In this regard, MVNOs offer very cheap services as compared to the main operators. Nevertheless, their coverage is narrower, particularly in remote areas.
2. How to Choose the Best Mobile Operator in France
When selecting a mobile carrier in France, here are some key factors to consider:
- Coverage – Check coverage maps to ensure the operator offers strong 4G/5G signals where you live, work, and travel. The major networks tend to have the widest coverage.
- Data allowance – Choose a plan with adequate data for your usage (e.g. 2 GB, 20 GB). Higher data caps are better for streaming media and tethering.
- Calling texting – Pick a plan that includes sufficient minutes and texts for your needs. Some plans offer unlimited nationwide calling.
- Roaming – If you travel abroad frequently, opt for a provider with inclusive EU roaming and international options.
- Speeds – Orange and SFR tend to have the fastest mobile networks in France. But speeds vary so check OpenSignal, Ookla for updates.
- Price – Compare monthly costs across different operator plans factoring in any discounts. Free Mobile and MVNOs offer cheaper deals.
- Perks – Look for added benefits like entertainment bundles (Spotify, YouTube Premium), rewards programs and customer loyalty bonuses.
- Customer service – Research online reviews and complaints regarding customer support and service quality.
3. Best Mobile Operators in France – Detailed Comparison
Let’s dive deeper into a comparison of the top mobile carriers in France:
|Operator||Market share||Bandwidth||Coverage||4G coverage||Objects of use||Average price|
|Orange||40.4%||10 MHz||99.8%||99.9%||Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, e-sims||26 USD/month|
|SFR||20.7%||15 MHz||99.6%||99.7%||Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, e-sims||20 USD/month|
|Bouygues Telecom||19.1%||15 MHz||99.6%||99.8%||Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, e-sims||15 USD/month|
|Free Mobile||19.8%||20 MHz||97.5%||97.9%||Mobile phones, tablets, laptops||10 USD/month|
- Market Share: Orange has the largest market share at around 30%. Bouygues and SFR are close together at around 20% each. Free Mobile is catching up fast with around 15% share.
- Network bandwidth: All four operators have nationwide 4G coverage of 95% or more now. Orange and SFR have the advantage of slightly larger bandwidth allocation.
- Coverage: All operators have extensive nationwide coverage across urban and rural areas. Orange and SFR have a small edge in terms of number of cellular towers and indoor coverage.
- 4G availability: All cities and major towns are covered by 4G from all operators now. Orange and SFR have 4-5% more land area under 4G compared to Bouygues and Free Mobile.
- Main use: All support uses like calling, internet browsing, streaming etc. Orange and SFR target business users more. Free Mobile best for data use with generous high speed data allowances.
- Pricing: Average monthly plans range from 15-30 euros across operators. Free Mobile is very attractive for price conscious users with plans starting at as low as 5 euros per month.
Overall, all four operators make it possible to have a reliable connection across the whole country; however, Orange and SFR seem to perform better in terms of coverage and bandwidth. Price-sensitive or data-oriented users should go for Free Mobile. In terms of balancing parameters, Bouygues is balanced.
An advantage of Orange is that you can also enjoy the France eSIM plan provided by francesim.com. With this plan, you can be provided with a French phone number as well as data without having to purchase a SIM card. It’s just scanning your QR code and activating your eSIM with a compatible device.
The France eSIM plan costs 44.90 USD and gives you 30 GB in France for 30 days:
4. Where to Buy SIM Card from France Mobile Operators?
Here are some recommendations on where to purchase SIM cards from France mobile carriers:
- Operator retail stores – The best place to buy a SIM card is directly from Orange, SFR, Bouygues or Free Mobile branded stores and kiosks. You can get set up right away and take advantage of any promotions.
- Supermarkets – Major French retailers like Carrefour, Auchan, Leclerc sell prepaid and postpaid SIM cards onsite or online for the major French operators.
- Electronics stores – Retailers like FNAC and Boulanger also offer SIM card purchases along with compatible unlocked phones.
- Online – You can order SIM cards for delivery through the official websites of French mobile operators. Some ecommerce sites like Amazon also sell SIM cards.
- Airports stations – Major airports, train stations and tourist centers in France have kiosks selling SIM cards from different providers. However, the deals may not be as competitive.
When purchasing your French SIM card, make sure to bring proper identification like your passport. Also have an unlocked phone ready that is compatible with French network bands. Purchase your SIM card before arriving in France to avoid long queues at airports. eSIM sellers like francesim.com offer instant delivery.
5. Do Mobile Operators in France Offer eSIM?
The major French mobile operators – Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile – all offer eSIM capabilities now. An eSIM or embedded SIM is directly integrated into your phone rather than using a physical nano-SIM card.
Here are some of the major France mobile operators that offer eSIM support:
- Orange: Orange offered eSIM support for iPhones in 2019 and recently rolled out support for Android phones as well. New eSIM can be activated via online or customer care.
- Bouygues Telecom: At the end of 2019, Bouygues Telecom made it possible to support eSIM functionality on iPhones and iPads. Users would activate a new eSIM through their operator’s website. This is analogous to physical SIM activation.
- SFR: In 2020 they rolled out eSIM support that was initially restricted to iOS devices. Android phone support came later. The eSIM activation directly happens at SFR’s customer portal available online.
- Free Mobile: In the year 2020, they made eSIM available for iOS. In the context of activation, an eSIM profile from the Free Mobile website is downloaded into the device.
In conclusion, all the major French carriers such as Orange, Bougues Telecom, SFR and Free Mobile do provide eSim services on phones.
Planning a trip to France? Don’t worry about getting a local SIM card or paying expensive roaming fees. Get an eSIM plan from francesim.com and you’ll be able to use data, apps and maps on your device across France. francesim.com offers flexible eSIM plans for 3 days, 5 days, 7 days, 10 days and longer, starting from just $6.
6. FAQs about France Mobile Operator
Which mobile carrier has the best coverage in France?
Orange has the most extensive overall coverage in France with 99% 4G population coverage and over 63,000 sites. But all the major networks have strong nationwide coverage.
Which operator has the fastest mobile network in France?
Early 5G speed tests show SFR having the fastest average download speeds of 238 Mbps. Orange is a close second with 136 Mbps average on 5G. When comparing 4G speeds, Orange edges out at 109 Mbps vs SFR’s 69 Mbps.
Is it easy to get a French SIM card as a tourist?
Yes, it is easy to purchase a prepaid French SIM card as a tourist by visiting any mobile operator store or retailer like FNAC. You just need an unlocked phone and passport. Top-up credits can be bought at tabacs.
How long is a French SIM card valid for?
Prepaid SIM cards from French operators are normally valid for a period of 6-12 months from the date of activation. You just need to top-up credits regularly to keep it active. There is no fixed validity with postpaid contracts.
Which French mobile operator has the cheapest mobile plans?
Free Mobile is renowned for offering the most affordable cell phone plans in France. Its €2/month prepaid plan or €19.99/month 150 GB postpaid plan are incredibly cheap compared to other operator deals.
The choice of a suitable France mobile operator depends only on your needs and a certain budget you can spend. Orange or SFR are great alternatives for large-scale and high speeds nationwide coverage. The ultra-cheap plans of Free Mobile are the best. Similarly, Bouygues Telecom also offers competitive prices.
In your selection for the most desired operator, make sure to compare 4G and 5G availability, averages network speeds, data caps, calling minutes, roaming, and monthly prices points. Be on the lookout for free add-ons such as streaming services/discounts. Here, you’ll find the best French mobile provider that suits your requirements.