Orange in front, Bouygues Telecom and SFR neck and neck with Bouygues Telecom leading by a nose, Free Mobile trailing the pack

Paris, 23 June 2014


ARCEP has been conducting surveys periodically since 1997 to assess the quality of mobile operators' services in Metropolitan France. Today, ARCEP is publishing the findings of its 15th survey.

These surveys, which are conducted in accordance with the terms of the 2G, 3G and 4G licences that ARCEP has issued to operators, are part of the Authority's efforts to improve the information made available to users on electronic communications service quality and coverage. Users can choose their operator based on four criteria: the content of the offer, price, quality of service and coverage. If the information that is publicly available allows users to compare the first two criteria with considerable accuracy, it is much harder for them to compare quality and coverage levels, particularly for mobile services. ARCEP is thus committed to improving the market's transparency in this area, to better satisfy users' needs while also helping to shed a positive light on the investments that operators are making to improve the quality of their services.

  • Survey on the quality of mobile services conducted in early 2014

This is the background to the survey that ARCEP conducted in the first quarter of 2014 on the mobile services that operators Orange, Bouygues Telecom, SFR and Free Mobile provide in the retail market. The survey is based on more than 90,000 measurements taken in the field, which are intended to encompass the vast array of situations that users encounter (outdoors, indoors, in a car, on a train, in a city, in the country, etc.) and the various services on offer (calling, texting, mobile internet). These measurements were taken across the whole of mainland France, in metropolitan areas and, for the first time, in several hundred rural communities as well. Most of these measurements were taken on 2G/3G systems, but the first metrics for 4G networks were also measured on a trial basis.

  • 4G measurements taken for the first time: revealing that 4G can triple data throughput in covered areas

Tests were conducted for the first time on 4G systems, on a trial basis and inside a small area. Because they were only experimental, the findings for 4G are published as one, with no distinction being drawn between operators. This will no longer be the case with the next survey which will include detailed 4G findings, operator by operator.

These tests reveal throughput that is substantially higher than with 2G/3G: the median download speed when using 4G is 17.9 Mbps, compared to 7.2 Mbps with 2G/3G. Upload speeds increase from 1.5 Mbps to 5.5 Mbps with 4G. There continue to be tremendous disparities between operators' 4G services, as there are with 2G/3G: the median throughput with the best 4G operator is six times higher than the median throughput provided by the poorest.

  • Sizeable differences in quality between the four 2G/3G mobile operators' services

Orange obtained the best results for telephone services and for most data services. It also provides the highest throughput. Bouygues Telecom and SFR obtained comparable results, performing less well than Orange, with a slight advantage for Bouygues Telecom. Free Mobile, whose 3G network is still being deployed, obtained substantially poorer results for a large number of indicators.

Number of indicators with above average performance

  • 3G network speeds continue to increase significantly

Over a comparable geographical area, the speed of operators' 3G service has increased by around 30% since the previous survey. There nevertheless continue to be sizeable disparities between the four operators: the median download speed measured with Orange is 9.3 Mbps, compared to 4 Mbps with Free Mobile and SFR.

A summary of the findings, as well as the complete results, are available on the ARCEP website.

As part of its ongoing efforts to inform consumers, ARCEP will be hosting a live chat on its website devoted to mobile service quality, on Thursday, 26 June at 5 pm. Users can already submit their questions at:

Linked documents

The complete results (pdf - 3.88 Mo) (pdf - in French only)

The summary (pdf - 769 Ko) (pdf - in French only)