France takes tentative steps towards 5G

The first standards are out and the 5G frenzy is beginning, but France isn’t getting caught up in the euphoria, as Arcep makes slow and steady steps towards the next generation of mobile.

Arcep, the French telco regulator, has announced it will release temporary frequency authorisations to develop 5G pilots in the 3400 – 3800 MHz and the 26 GHz band. In this sense, the French are very much falling in line with the rest of the continent, as the two bands are proving to be a popular 5G choice in many nations.

“In the 3400 – 3800 MHz band, frequencies are already available in the metropolitan areas of Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lille, Le Havre, Saint-Étienne, Douai, Montpellier and Grenoble,” Arcep said on its website. “This is not an exhaustive list and may change over time: interested parties are invited to contact Arcep if they plan on deploying networks in other frequency ranges, or in other geographical locations.”

It does seem like a very calm and reasoned approach to the mobile tsunami. While other nations are preaching over the glories of 5G, shouting and screaming how their efforts will make them the most powerful nation in the world, the French approach seems to be a lot more considered and humble.

The objective here seems to be to figure out what 5G actually is. Yes, it is faster, more powerful and extra reliable, but what that actually looks like in the real world largely remains a mystery. The number of concrete usecases, which will be applicable to the world over the next couple of years, are shaky at best.

The promise of gigabit speeds for your mobile are all well and good, but does anyone need them yet? Autonomous vehicles sound wonderful, but the legal frameworks and supporting industries won’t be ready for decades. Will the general population be ready to accept the idea of robotic surgery at any point in the near future? These are all wonderful ideas, but not realistic for the next couple of years.

This seems to be the French approach; find a usecase and we’ll get France ready for the rollout. IoT seems to be the area which will be most relevant, but this is something we already knew. Aside from gigabit speeds which we won’t be able to take advantage of without the penetration of 5G ready devices, the boring IoT background work will take priority. But it will ultimately prove useful for the consumer, just not in the blockbuster fashion some were hoping for.

Imagine a smart-harbour. All the containers are connected, the vehicles which are used to shift everything around are autonomous and many of the logistical processes are automated. It doesn’t sound very exciting, but it is an excellent usecase for IoT. Efficiencies will be realized almost immediately, so standard delivery times could be reduced from 3-5 days to 2-3 days. There will numerous usecases like this in various different sectors which aren’t sexy, but will improve our lives just a little bit every day. Add up all those little bits and things start to get notably better.

Arcep might not be taking the chest-beating approach which other nations are, but it does seem to be taking the bullsh*t out of 5G; we like it.

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