Bouygues switches on 5G, squeezing ahead of Orange

French operator Bouygues has pipped Orange at the post, launching 5G just days before the incumbent.

Its network has gone live today in 20 major towns and cities, including Cannes, Le Havre, Montpellier, Nice, Reims, and Versaille (see below for the full list).

Rolling out 5G on its 2.1-GHz spectrum, and its recently-acquired 3.5-GHz spectrum, the telco aims to deliver nationwide coverage by the end of next year. In 2023, Bouygues plans to switch on its 5G core network, paving the way for standalone 5G and all the new services that will (supposedly) come with it.

“5G is a technology that will support our customers’ future uses and help companies grow by offering them unprecedented service quality,” said Richard Viel, CEO of Bouygues Telecom, in a statement on Monday.

Viel struck the same tone as his counterpart at Orange, Stéphane Richard, insisting that the technology will be deployed in a manner that respects its surroundings.

“We will roll out our network gradually, starting with the major towns and cities, with a target of nationwide coverage for end-2021. To achieve that, we are listening carefully to local authorities in pursuit of constructive dialogue,” he said.

“At the same time, Bouygues Telecom will continue to roll out and ramp up its 4G network throughout France, especially outside urban areas, in order to provide high-quality connectivity to as many people as possible,” he added.

Price-wise, Bouygues’s 5G service starts at €22 per month for 60 GB for customers already signed up to one of its Bbox fixed-line plans. For €27 per month these same customers can get 90 GB, or if they really want to go for it, they can get 120 GB for €45 per month. Non-Bbox customers will have to pay slightly more.

The launch comes two days before Orange is due to join the fray. The incumbent’s 5G network will go live in 15 locations on Thursday. Meanwhile, Altice-owned SFR switched on its network in Nice in November, and Iliad’s Free Mobile unit is still working on its own launch. The latter is unlikely to be in a mad hurry, because history tells us that while it tends to arrive later to market, it also tends to undercut its rivals on price, which will doubtless turn a few heads.

Full list of Bouygues’s launch-day locations:

Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Argenteuil, Boulogne-Billancourt, Cannes, Dijon, Le Havre, Lyon, Le Mans, Metz, Montpellier, Montreuil, Nancy, Nice, Reims, Rouen, Saint-Denis, Toulon, Versailles, Villeurbanne.

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