Just a few weeks after SFR announced the launch of its 4G services in Paris, Orange said on Monday it has finished building out its own LTE network in the French capital.
While SFR was the first operator to bring LTE to Paris, as well as the first mobile operator to launch consumer 4G services in France when it switched on its 4G network at the end of 2012, its main competitor Orange now offers full coverage of the French capital.
For its part, SFR plans to cover the entire city, as well as 300 other municipalities in the surrounding area, by the end of this year. However, today France's second-placed operator only covers half of the city, while the country's biggest mobile carrier Orange has already extended LTE coverage across Paris, as well as 37 nearby towns.
Orange said it is now aiming to provide LTE services to 40 percent of France's population by the end of 2013, "instead of 30 percent as initially planned". By the end of the month, Orange said its LTE will cover more than 390 towns in 54 areas.
According to figures released recently by the French spectrum regulator ANFR (L'Agence Nationale des Fréquences), Orange already has more than 2,000 active 4G base stations in the country, compared to around 500 for SFR and 450 for Bouygues Telecom.
Bouygues Telecom however has received the green light from ANFR to increase that to more than 3,500, using the 1800MHz spectrum band. As the 1800Mhz spectrum provides a wider coverage than 2.6GHz band — mainly used by Orange — for the equivalent infrastructure, third-placed operator Bouygues Telecom could well end up offering the farthest reaching LTE coverage when it launches its LTE services in France on 1 October.
The end of the year could also bring another coverage boost to 4G services in the country: SFR and Bouygues Telecom announced at the end of July that they had entered into exclusive talks to share parts of their mobile networks, which should have the side effect of "speeding up the rollout of 4G", according to SFR general secretary Olivier Henrard.
Under the deal, each operator will keep using its own LTE spectrum, he added, but the aim is to better "organise future rollouts by geography. As with 3G, in areas where one operator leads [in 4G], it will run both [operators'] networks."