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Which are the biggest mobile phone providers in France in 2018?
Orange, formerly France Telecom, remains the largest mobile phone provider on the market in France, with around 21 million customers in the third trimester of 2017.
Breakdown of the French Mobile Phone Market
Currently in 2018, there are four major mobile phone providers in France (note: they all offer Internet as well), which together represent 89.93% of the mobile phone market in France. However, several Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) also operate in France, though collectively they represent just over 10% of the market.
Mobile Phone Providers in France: the big four
The largest mobile phone providers in France in 2016 are, in order of size:
With 21 million customers during the thrid trimester of 2017, the historic supplier Orange (formerly France Telecom) remains the largest mobile phone operator in France. Orange's 4G network covers about 80% of the population, and the operator counts approximately 8.7 million customers with 4G as of March 2016.
Orange's quality of service appears to be slightly superior to that of other operators in France, according to the independent regulatory agency ARCEP (Autorité de Régulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes), which published a survey about mobile phone coverage and service quality in December 2015.
With 14.8 million customers as of the third trimester of 2017, SFR is the next biggest mobile phone operator in France, with a market share of about 21.4%. SFR's 4G network coverage had been lagging behind other French providers, but the operator has promised a more rapid deployment of 4G sites over the course of 2016 that will allow it to catch up. SFR's 2G and 3G coverage are comparable with the other big four mobile phone providers.
SFR's service quality, according to ARCEP, is in the middle compared to other suppliers (last report published December 2015). Find out more about SFR, including how to reach SFR customer service in our guides.
Free Mobile has rapidly been gaining customers and market share since its entry into the market in France in 2012. In the first trimester of 2018 the operator counted 13.7 million customers, allowing it to surpass Bouygues Telecom for first time. Free Mobile now holds about 18% of the French mobile phone market, even though its 4G coverage is behind that of its competitors.
While Free Mobile is an increasingly popular option amongst French mobile phone customers, the operator's service quality lags behind that of the other mobile phone operators in France. According to ARCEP surveys, Free Mobile performed the worst in terms of percentage of calls dropped, web navigation, and video streaming.
With 12.9 million customers in the first trimester of 2016, Bouygues Telecom is now the fourth-largest mobile phone operator in France, holding about 16.2% of the market. Bouygues 4G network coverage is the second-largest in France, after Orange, and 2G/3G network coverage is roughly the same amongst all providers. Bouygues Telecom's service quality is comparable to SFR, according to 2015 ARCEP surveys.
MVNO in France
The rest of the market is held by smaller operators, with about 6.9 million customers. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) don't own the network over which they provide mobile services to their customers, and instead rely on one (or several) of the networks owned by one of the big four. There are several MVNO in France, including:
- Coriolis: Founded in 1999, Coriolis operates on Orange, SFR, and Bouygues Telecom's networks
- Prixtel: Prixtel relies on SFR's cellular network, and was founded in 2004
- La Poste Mobile: Shared by La Poste and SFR, La Poste Mobile relies on SFR's network
- NRJ Mobile: NRJ was created in 2005 and operates on Orange, Bouygues Telecom, and SFR.
Choosing a Mobile Phone Operator in France: helpful tips
Looking for a Mobile Phone Plan in France?Selectra's English-speaking customer helpline can help direct you to the provider and plan that best suits your needs. Just call 09 77 55 72 27 Monday through Friday from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm, ask for a free callback
Here are a few tips for choosing a mobile phone provider and plan in France:
- Decide what type of mobile phone plan you would prefer: prepaid or postpaid? With or without a contract? You have several options for your mobile phone plan, and all come with advantages and disadvantages
- Think about your data needs. Depending on the plan, charges can quickly increase if you go over your data allowance.
- Check for international calling deals: many providers offer free calling time to international locations, but coverage varies depending on the operator. Check the terms and conditions of the plans you are looking at to find out more
- Look out for special offers and seasonal discounts - you can find these in our updated list of the current special deals on phone plans going on in France.
- Find more tips in our guides to mobile phones in France
How to Sign up for a Mobile Phone in France
You can sign up for a phone plan with a provider in one of their retail boutiques, online, or over the phone. You will need to have the following information with you when signing up for a mobile phone plan in France:
- Your contact information: name, email address
- Your full address: street address, apartment number, zip code
- Your banking information (RIB): you need to have a French bank account already set up before you sign up for a postpaid mobile phone plan. Some suppliers may also ask for your bank card (carte bancaire) information, which is used for activation fees/deposit.