French telecoms incumbent Orange is speeding up the pace of its 4G deployment and claims to have reached the important milestone of covering all of Paris with the high-speed network.
By the end of September, the operator says its 4G service will cover 70 “agglomerations” – meaning cities and surrounding urban areas – including more than 500 towns across the country.
Moreover, having originally planned to provide services to 30% of the French population by the end of 2013, Orange (Paris, France) is now aiming for a target of 40%.
It also claims to be the only French operator capable of offering theoretical maximum LTE speeds of 150Mbps, thanks to its sizeable frequency holdings.
Orange received 2x20MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum in a 4G frequency auction of September 2011, while chief rivals Bouygues (Paris, France) and SFR (Paris, France) each holds just 2x15MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum.
Although new entrant Iliad (Paris, France) also owns 2x20MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum, it lacks any airwaves in important lower-frequency bands and has yet to start offering 4G services.
Nevertheless, Orange is under 4G pressure from Bouygues and SFR, which became the first French operator to launch the technology in November last year.
All three players are looking to LTE services to help them regain the initiative from Iliad, whose low-cost offers have dramatically squeezed the incumbents, leading to customer defections and market-share losses over the past 18 months.
SFR has been aiming to cover 55 agglomerations with 4G by the end of the year, while Bouygues – which launched its offer in May 2013 – has previously announced plans to cover 40% of the population by October using spectrum in the 1800MHz band.
Orange said it will be offering five devices compatible with its 150Mbps service by the end of September, including the Huawei Ascend P2, Sony Xperia Z1, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra smartphones, as well as the Huawei E5776 Domino.
However, the operator will not be able to support Apple’s (Cupertino, CA, USA) iPhone 5 – unlike Bouygues – because the device is compatible with the 1800MHz band but not the 800MHz and 2.6GHz ones.