Bouygues, Free, Orange or SFR?

Are you planning to change your package, but you don’t know which operator to choose between Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom or Free Mobile? The price is not the only criterion: why pay little if you do not capture? Check which is the best mobile operator, the one that offers the best 3G and 4G network in mainland France, and follow the progress of their deployment of the 5G network.

ARCEP and ANFR regularly publish particularly interesting data for consumers in terms of mobile coverage and quality of service of mobile networks. Mobile operators also publish their own territory and population coverage figures, whether in 3G, 4G, or even 5G, as well as coverage maps. We have therefore centralized all this information to help you see more clearly, and thus determine which is the best operator for you, the one with the best network and the best service according to your needs.

What is the best mobile operator?

Contrary to what one might think, there really is no better operator in absolute terms. There is your better operator. Indeed, the operator that covers the French population the most may not be the one that best covers the territories you frequent, such as your home and your place of work. Before choosing your mobile access provider, we advise you to consult the coverage maps.

All you have to do is choose the best mobile plan with your favorite operator. To do this, we invite you to consult our comparator of the best non-binding packages.

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4G and 5G coverage from Orange, Bouygues Telecom, SFR and Free

4G coverage rate of mobile operators

In 4G, Bouygues, SFR and Orange cover more than 99% of the population as of June 8, 2023 according to Arcep. Free Mobile covers 99% of the population. As for the coverage of the territory, the figures are hardly less good: Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécom are the best operators on this point and cover 95% of metropolitan France. Free comes next with 92% respectively.

Operators obviously prefer to communicate on population coverage, which allows them to focus primarily on dense areas. Do not neglect the coverage of the territory which will allow you to give you an idea of ​​the state of the network of each operator on the major road or rail axes, as well as the extent of the so-called ” white» (without network). Note, however, that SFR and Bouygues Telecom have signed a roaming agreement in these white zones in order to pool their infrastructures. This gives them a significant advantage in providing a minimum service over a larger area of ​​France.

The coverage of mobile operators in transport

It is important to measure the quality of service, not only in the places where you live (home and work), but also on the main routes that you can regularly use. On MonReseauMobile, Arcep has therefore drawn up a report on the road and rail axes based on the loading of a Web page in less than 10 seconds.

The quality of the network on the main roads:

  1. Orange: 97%
  2. Bouygues Telecom: 96%
  3. LICO: 95%
  4. Free: 82%

The quality of the network on the TGV axes:

  1. Orange: 86%
  2. Bouygues Telecom: 81%
  3. LICO: 79%
  4. Free: 78%

The quality of the network in intercity and TER trains:

  1. Orange: 86%
  2. Bouygues Telecom: 81%
  3. LICO: 79%
  4. Free: 78%

The quality of the network on the metro axes (Paris, Lille, Lyon, Toulouse, Rennes and Marseille):

  1. Orange: 86%
  2. Bouygues Telecom: 81%
  3. LICO: 79%
  4. Free: 78%

The quality of the network in the RER and Transiliens (Paris region)

  1. Amber: 95%
  2. Bouygues Telecom: 92%
  3. LICO: 91%
  4. Free: 83%

3G coverage rate

In 3G too, the four operators cover almost the entire population. The three incumbents exceed 99%, while Free offers 99% coverage “only“.

In terms of territorial coverage, Free’s 3G antennas reached 96% according to Arcep as of June 8 October 2023. For the other operators, SFR is first with 9% of the territory, followed by Bouygues (96%) and Orange (94 %).

2G coverage rate (voice and SMS)

In 2G, the four operators cover almost the entire population. Arcep also offers a qualitative comparison for each of the four providers and all capped at more than 99% of calls made in quality made at least under very good coverage. For the surface, the figures vary between 91% (at Free) and 95% (SFR and Bouygues Télécom)

5G coverage rate

Auctions for 5G frequencies in the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz band took place in September-October 2020, allowing operators to distribute the first blocks of 5G frequencies. Unsurprisingly, Orange and SFR have managed to agree a little more than their competitors by putting more money on the table and therefore have 90 MHz and 80 MHz respectively. Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile must make do with 70 MHz blocks.

5G is finally coming to France!  Why did it take so long?

The operators do not yet communicate on the coverage of this network, which is still in its infancy, but we can already get an idea of ​​the network coverage from the maps provided by the ANFR. Please note: this concerns all frequency bands, including 5G sites on the 700 MHz band alone, which explains Free’s wide coverage.

The number of relays per mobile operator

The ANFR publishes its observatory of the deployment of mobile networks every month. It contains the number of active sites for each operator, as well as the number of antennas (each site can accommodate several antennas). Figures that provide more recent (but less precise) information on the network coverage of operators. Thus, the number of supports more or less reflects the coverage of an operator while the number of antennas will more reflect the capacity of the network and the speeds.

It is of course important that the smartphone used is compatible with the frequencies most used by your operator.

As of June 1, 2023, 55,925 4G sites are in service according to the ANFR in metropolitan France. Overseas, 3,166 sites are listed in service. Here is the ranking of the number of 4G sites by operator:

  1. Orange (29,228 sites, +44 in May 2023);
  2. SFR (25,065 sites, +139 over the same period);
  3. Bouygues Télécom (25,381 sites, +185 over the same period);
  4. Free Mobile (24,573 sites, +117 over the same period).

Regarding 5G, 40,757 sites are declared technically operational. In France, four frequency bands allow the use of 5G: 700 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 3.5 GHz (i.e. 3500 MHz).

Here is breakdown by operator of 5G sites in service :

700MHz 2100MHz 3.5GHz
Orange 1 11,983 18,380
SFR 0 11,983 18,380
Bouygues Telecom 0 11,983 18,380
free mobile 16,888 0 18,380

It should be noted that to take full advantage of the advantages of 5G, it is preferable to be covered by a 3.5 GHz frequency.

It remains to check which operator best covers the places you frequent. To do so, we invite you to consult, an official Arcep website. The ANFR also offers its observatory in cartographic form.

Speeds at Orange, Free, SFR and Bouygues Telecom

Mobile coverage is one thing, but the quality of service still has to be up to par. Every year, Arcep publishes the Observatory on the coverage and quality of mobile services, in which it measures several uses: calls, SMS, web browsing, online video and download speeds.

Average downlink speeds in 2G/3G/4G

In October 2022, it is once again Orange which offers the best average speeds (89 Mbit/s), followed by SFR (57 Mbit/s), Bouygues Telecom (55 Mbit/s) and Free Mobile (49 Mbit/s ).

5G speeds

Since November 2021, Arcep has published a comparison of speeds between 5G operators. In downlink speeds, it is once again Orange that wins the prize with 142 Mbit/s on average throughout the territory. In dense areas, this figure rises to 227 Mbit/s.

In second place is SFR, which posts an average of 84 Mbit/s and 145 Mbit/s in urban areas. Bouygues comes third, offering an average of 71 Mbit/s and 130 Mbit/s in dense areas. Free is dead last with 31 Mbit/s on average, with fairly similar figures in dense areas.

Customer satisfaction

More than simple relays, operators offer a whole range of services, from a possible connection for fixed offers (andquad play) to the after-sales service (SAV) in the event of any problems. The question also arises at the time of termination since some operators try to complicate the task of subscribers who would like to go elsewhere.

Arcep, via its J’Alerte l’Arcep site, drew up a customer satisfaction ranking in April 2023 based on a representative sample of more than 4,009 people aged 18 or over. Here is the ranking of the best operators according to the French:

  1. Orange (8 / 10)
  2. Free Mobile (7.9 / 10)
  3. Bouygues Telecom (7.6 / 10)
  4. SFR (7.2 / 10)

For its part, UFC-Que Choisir published in March 2021 (Que Choisir No. 300) its annual ranking of the best operators in terms of customer satisfaction based on a panel of 12,368 people questioned. Overall, Orange leads the way, both on mobile with the least amount of conflict referenced. Then come RED, the non-binding offer from SFR which benefits from its attractive prices, Free Mobile, then Bouygues Telecom. SFR brings up the rear and does not even obtain the average because of a number of disputes “more important than its competitorsaccording to UFC-Que Choisir.

Operator Satisfaction (mobile)
sosh 14.8
Orange 13.8
RED 13.4
Free 12.8
Bouygues Telecom 12.7

As this ranking has not yet been updated by the organization, it is possible that the results achieved in 2023 will be different.

Choose your mobile plan

In choosing the best operator, the price and the services offered are also essential elements. These vary regularly, here are the addresses allowing you to directly consult the packages available at the moment for each given operator:

You can also consult our online plan comparator.

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