The new generation internet, 5G, risks having an eventful start in France. The allocation of frequencies to telephone operators is scheduled for April.
There are four main operators in France: Orange, Bouygues-Telecom, SFR and Free. Today they are standing up against the government. Their exasperation is up to the technological and financial challenges. In short: 5G must allow businesses to be faster in their communications, hospitals to be connected and interact, and, a little later, homes to download movies and games in fast version. Each operator will have to offer a 5G offer in two French cities before the end of 2020. The ramp-up will be gradual so that by the end of 2025, each operator will have equipped around two thirds of the population. The entire territory will have to be covered by the end of 2030. This requires investments amounting to billions of euros and operators are stamping out.
The actors criticize the government for not being clear enough in the Huawei controversy, the Chinese equipment supplier accused by the Americans of taking advantage of its technology to spy on the Western powers for the benefit of the communist regime in place in Beijing. Two weeks ago, ignoring the warnings of Donald Trump, European Commissioner Thierry Breton left the door open to Huawei to develop its technology on the Old Continent, provided that it respect very strict rules which, moreover, remain to be known. The French government is on the same line but, before the auction of frequencies in April, the operators would like to be fixed once and for all on the conditions imposed by Matignon and Bercy to work with Huawei: will there be restrictions according to regions, cities, time limits? For the moment, it's radio silence.
The Chinese Embassy in Paris on Sunday (February 9th) warned the French government against possible discriminatory measures against Huawei. The pressure is easy because some operators (Bouygues-Telecom and SFR) have already been working with Huawei for several years on their 3 and 4G networks. If they are forced to review their collaboration, it will be very expensive. For its part, the historic operator Orange (ex France Telecom) recently signed with Nokia and Ericsson, proof that other solutions than Huawei exist in Europe. More than ever, the ball is in the government's court.