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France targets 2020 5G rollout

5G network wireless systems

French regulator Arcep has laid out its 5G roadmap with ambitions to launch the mobile euphoria in at least one major city by 2020, and provide 5G coverage of the main transport routes by 2025.

The plan, which has been given the thumbs up by both Delphine Gény-Stephann, Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and Finance and Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, will aim to retain French competitiveness in the digital era as Europeans look like they are losing touch with the US and the leading nations in Asia. Along with the headline 2020 and 2025 objectives of the roadmap, Arcep has also outlined the underlying ambitions; free up and allocate radio frequencies, the development of new uses, encourage new infrastructure investments and a communications strategy which will keep the public informed.

Aside from the complicated task of freeing up the 3.4-3.8 GHz, 26 GHz and the 1.5 GHz bands, Arcep will also manage a number of working groups to define the technical conditions for using the bands, to avoid interference between 5G networks and with existing applications, as well establish the allocation procedures and timetable to enable 5G service launches in 2020. Elsewhere, the regulator will also assess the feasibility of network sharing, which might prove to be a complicated task in a market where the telcos are not necessarily on the friendliest of terms.

Although it has been a slow start for the French, there does seem to be some gathering momentum. Arcep opened a 5G Pilot window in January of this year, and has approved 22 trials in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band since that point. The majority of these trials are based in Paris, though Arcep has prioritized cohesion in the ecosystem as a means to success for 5G. Aside from the network sharing ambitions, the regulator is also targeting a mobilisation of the start-up community through briefings and education programmes, ensuring this segment hits the ground running.

Setting out the roadmap for the delivery of 5G is the first step in the right direction, but now comes the complicated jobs for Arcep; making sure everyone does what they are supposed to. Local authorities seem to be playing a more notable role here than in many other areas, perhaps owing to the size of the country and the increased isolation of some communities in comparison to other nations. A necessary step, but making sure these paper pushers do not slow-down the rollout will be a difficult task.

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