French operator Orange has already activated 5G in 160 cities across the country, the operator’s CEO Stéphane Richard said in an interview with local newspaper Jornal du Dimanche.

Some of the initial cities covered by Orange’s 5G network include Marseille, Nice, Le Mans and Angers.

“We will very soon deploy 5G in 30 other cities, such as Aix-en-Provence, Brest or Toulon,” the executive said.

The executive also said that Orange is currently engaged in talks with the Municipality of Paris for the deployment of the technology in the capital. Richard said that he expected the activation of 5G in Paris to occur during the first quarter of the year.

The executive also noted that the deployment of 5G in the country is behind other markets. France was one of the latest countries in Western Europe to launch 5G. Mobile operators in the country announced their initial 5G deployments in November and December after telecommunications regulator Arcep made available suitable spectrum for 5G in October.

“France is leaving with almost a year and a half late in the deployment of 5G. It is difficult to know today if it will catch up with it,” the executive reportedly said.

Orange initially launched commercial 5G services in 15 municipalities at the beginning of December 2020.

The operator said that the service will be offered though frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band.

Richard previously said that the company’s 5G deployment will be done gradually and in a constructive dialogue with all local authorities, in parallel with the carrier’s efforts to expand coverage of the French territory in 4G.

Orange recently obtained 90 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. The telco said that its upcoming 5G deployment focuses mainly on these new 3.5 GHz frequencies and may be supplemented by the use of 2.1 GHz frequencies.

The operator said it has chosen to initially cover areas that are already heavily used in order to avoid any risk of saturation.

The main auction for 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies for the provision of 5G in France was completed in early October 2020.

In this spectrum auction, local operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad committed to pay a total of 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) for a total of 11 blocks of 10 megahertz of spectrum.

Telecom regulator Arcep’s specifications for the 5G auction stipulate that each operator must launch 5G services in at least two cities before the end of 2020. Each carrier should deploy 3,000 sites by 2022, 8,000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 sites by 2025.

Eventually, all of the cell sites must provide a 5G service using frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band or other bands, according to the regulator.

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