20 February 2001
For the fourth consecutive year, in cooperation with operators and consumers' and users' groups, Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART) conducted a study of the quality of service offered by mobile telephony networks in Metropolitan France, as it is seen on a daily basis by the clients of France's three operators.
The study, conducted by Thales Idatys, was held over four weeks, between mid November and early December 2000. Over 18,000 calls-mobile to fixed and fixed to mobile-were made, under common portable telephone usage conditions.
Coverage and service quality problems
Until now, ART's study had focused on two distinct-but complementary-problems of mobile telephony:
- service quality, that is service availability, maintenance of calls and the sound quality of calls. Measurements were taken in major cities at peak periods
- coverage, that is service availability. Measurements taken in small and medium-sized cities were used in evaluating this element
Two studies have been conducted on an annual basis to help consumers better distinguish between elements of these two problems.
The study published today focuses on service quality. Quality was evaluated in France's largest cities at peak periods, that is under the most difficult scheduling conditions for cellular networks.
ART is currently preparing a second study, for the "coverage" elements, which will focus on the effective availability of mobile telephony services, primarily in low-density areas. A specific methodology will be set for this study: ART will publish the results in coming months.
The main changes since the 1999 study
In addition to the basic changes described above, the 2000 study was adapted on a number of points:
- First, cities with over 400,000 inhabitants-representing a total of 18.2 million people-were tested only during peak periods. In 1999, these cities had been tested throughout the day, distinguishing between high and low use periods.
- On the other hand, the 2000 study made it possible-for the first time-to determine the changes, hour by hour, of service quality during peak periods. Thus, we can evaluate the level of service quality during the busiest times of the day.
- Finally, no measurements were taken on TGV train lines, although suburban train tests were kept.
Main results of this year's study
- First, and for the second year in a row, the study showed no saturation phenomena in cities of between 50,000 and 400,000 inhabitants. On the other hand, as last year, it did reveal a decrease in service quality during the busiest hours in cities with populations of over 400,000.
- An analysis of changes to service quality during peak periods in the twelve largest French cities shows that the failure rate and cut-off rate measured at "very peak" periods can be twice or even three times that of "less peak" periods.
- In very dense areas of these major cities, and for all operators, 93% to 97% of calls are made successfully-that is get through on the first try-are maintained for two minutes with no cut offs and have "good" sound quality.
Given these results, ART calls on operators to continue with determination their efforts in order to offer the best possible service to users, even as growth of mobile telephony subscribers remains strong, and as the penetration rate now exceeds 50% of the French population.