You’re moving to France and want to set up your mobile phone and get connected to Internet. But what are your options, and which supplier should you choose? Here we present the major actors in the Internet and phone markets in France.
How the Internet and Mobile Phone Markets Work in France
The four main providers active in the mobile phone and Internet markets in France are Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and Free Mobile. All four providers offer both internet and mobile phone plans, as well as additional services such as television and fixed phone lines (collectively, known as a “box” offer). All four providers own their own phone and internet infrastructure, and coverage is fairly similar (though as the most recent entry to the French telecommunications market, Free Mobile’s network coverage is slightly behind, notably for 4G). They also all operate low-cost brands or offshoots, which include B&You (Bouygues Telecom), Sosh (Orange), RED by SFR, and Alice Internet (Free).
Major Internet & Mobile Phone Providers in France
(Pronounciation: “oh-rahnj”) Formerly France Telecom, Orange is the historic provider for phone and Internet in France, and is currently still the largest telecommunications provider in the country. The company also has the most advanced 3G/4G network coverage. In addition to approximately 1000 boutiques across France, Orange has an English-speaking customer service line, available at 09 69 36 39 00.
Orange offers internet, fixed and mobile phone plans, as well as television service. In some parts of France (zones non-dégroupées), Orange still owns the fixed phone line infrastructure, and customers within these zones must rent a line from Orange for their phone/internet.
Orange also operates a low-cost offshoot, called Sosh. Sosh offers online-based customer service, contract-free mobile phone plans (sans engagement), as well as combined offers (mobile phone + Internet, mobile phone + Internet + television).
(pronunciation: “ess-eff-air”) SFR (Société française du radiotéléphone) was created in 1987, and counts more than 22 million mobile phone customers, and 6.4 million broadband customers (as of January 2016). The company was bought by the telecommunications operator Numericable in 2014, but operates under the brand SFR.
SFR offers internet, fixed and mobile phone line plans, as well as television and video games. The company was the first to offer 4G coverage in France, and currently has one of the most well-developed 4G networks in the country. SFR operates a low-cost offshoot called RED by SFR, which also offers internet and mobile phone plans, fixed phone lines, all contract-free (sans engagement).
(Pronunciation: “Bweeg Tel-eh-com”) Bouygues Telecom is a subsidiary of the French industrial group Bouygues, created in 1994. It is the third-largest telecommunications provider in France, after Orange and SFR, counting some 11.6 million mobile phone customers and 2.7 million Internet customers (as of September, 2015). Bouygues Telecom offers mobile phone plans (including 4G coverage), Internet, fixed phone lines, and television plans.
Bouygues Telecom, like all the other main telecommunications providers in France, operates a low-cost brand, called B&You. B&You offers contract-free mobile phone plans (sans engagement), online-based customer service, and combined offers with other Bouygues plans for Internet, a fixed phone line and/or television.
(Pronunciation: “frhee”) Free is the most recent major mobile provider in France, established in 2009 by the telecommunications company Iliad, and is growing rapidly. As of September 2015, Free has about 16% of the mobile phone market, with 11.3 million customers. Free offers contract-free mobile phone plans, Internet plans, and multiple combined offers (Internet + fixed line + mobile phone, Internet + fixed line + television, Internet + fixed line + multimedia). Free is primarily online-based, but does now operate a few physical boutiques throughout France.
Smaller Internet & Mobile Phone Providers in France
(Pronunciation: “corh-rhi-oh-lees”) Coriolis is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) founded in 1999. The company operates on Orange, SFR et Bouygues Telecom’s networks. Coriolis offers mobile phone plans (with and without contracts, including plans that include phones) as well as Internet plans. Coriolis offers online-based customer service, and customer advantages for recommendating the company. Coriolis also offers special deals targeted to seniors and the hard of hearing.
(Pronunciation: “alees”) Alice Internet is owned by telecommunications provider Iliad, which also owns Free Mobile. Alice offers a package deal of Internet + fixed phone line + television, which is contract-free (sans engagement), and customer service is online-based (there are no physical stores in France).
(Pronunciation: “sosh”) Sosh is the low-cost brand for Orange, created in 2011. Sosh offers contract-free mobile phone plans, contract mobile phone plans, package offers (mobile phone + Internet, mobile phone + Internet + television), and customer rewards for referrals. Sosh also sells mobile phones.
RED by SFR
(Pronunciation: “hredd by ess-eff-air”) RED by SFR is SFR’s low-cost offshoot, created in 2011. RED by SFR offers contract-free (sans engagement) internet and postpaid mobile phone plans, as well as the option for packages including fixed phone lines and/or television. RED by SFR also offers advantages for customer referrals (one month free – valued at $19.99/month) and has a partnership with Citadium (10% off on purchases when you present your RED by SFR bill or the RED&Moi application). RED by SFR also sells mobile phones.
(Pronunciation: “norh-net”) NordNet is one of the major satellite internet providersoperating in France. Founded in 1995, the company is now a subsidiary of major telecommunications provider Orange. NordNet offers satellite internet plans, ADSL internet plans, and several alternative broadband options (WiMax, WifiMax). Eligibility for these plans depends on the location, and many plans include a fixed phone line. NordNet also offers internet security plans.
(Pronunciation: “prheextel”) Prixtel is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) created in 2004 that relies on SFR for its network coverage. The company offers mobile phone plans (sans engagement) and sells telephones and tablets online.
La Poste Mobile
(Pronunciation: “lah poe-st mo-beel”) La Poste Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that relies on SFR for its network coverage. Formerly known as Debitel (also Simpleo, & Simplicime), the company was created in 1991 but is currently shared between SFR and La Poste. In addition to offering mobile phone plans (pre and postpaid, contract-free), La Poste Mobile also proposes a package offer (Internet + fixed phone + television). Customer service is available online or in any one of the post offices throughout France.
(Pronunciation: “veerh-gin mo-beel”)Created in France in 2006, Virgin Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that relies on the SFR network. The company was bought by SFR in 2014 and starting in 2015 Virgin Mobile customers have been transferred to SFR/RED by SFR offers. Virgin Mobile offers several postpaid mobile phone plan options, all contract-free.
(Pronunciation: “energy mo-beel”) NRJ Mobile, created in 2005, is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that relies on Orange, Bouygues Telecom et Numericable-SFR‘s networks. NRJ Mobile offers prepaid and postpaid mobile phone plans, including contract-free plans (sans engagement), and discounts on the purchase of phones (with contract plans). NRJ Mobile also offers a plan that includes a mini 4G router that can be connected up to 10 devices at the same time.