European telecom operators, Orange and SFR, have kicked off 5G in Paris where the network will be put into service from Friday, they announced on Thursday at a conference meeting at the city’s town hall.

Paris will therefore join Strasbourg, Lyon and Bordeaux, where 5G has already been launched, despite local reluctance. On this occasion, it is the State which decides and the mayors cannot legally object.

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Yet in anxious attempt to avoid controversy, the operators initiated a consultation in Paris, which resulted in a “charter” framing the deployment of 5G in the capital, after validation by the city council in early March.

It was the signing of this charter on March 15 by the operators: Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR, that made possible the commercial launch of 5G in Paris, while the Ile-de-France towns in the inner suburbs (which border Paris) benefit from the coverage of the latest generation of mobile networks since the end of 2020.

In return, the operators have notably undertaken to “optimize the recycling of telephone equipment” or to promote “digital inclusion”.

Orange and SFR, the first to have formalized the launch of their respective networks, have announced that they want to deploy exclusively on the 3.5 GHz frequency band, as it is the one “which offers the best speeds”.

By offering 5G this Friday to Parisians, SFR has shown on the one hand its willingness to respect the time for citizen debate, and on the other hand its ability to deploy its 5G network, in compliance with the adopted charter by the Paris Council,” said Grégory Rabuel, CEO of SFR, in a press release.

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5G Conspiracy Theories

From Paris to Nantes, via Rennes, several green or left-wing mayors of large cities had decided to launch a “public debate” at the end of 2020 to respond in particular to a “need for transparency” about the possible consequences of the deployment of 5G on the environment and health.

Other municipalities like Lille have already announced that they are in favour of a moratorium until the publication scheduled for spring 2021 of a report from the National Health Security Agency (Anses) which will analyse the health hazards posed by the network.

5G has been erroneously linked in several outrageous conspiracy theories to the coronavirus and other health crisis.

A former Nigerian senator, in a video shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook, once said the pandemic is purely cover for the introduction of 5G, suggesting it causes harm.

Those with underlying medical conditions,” he says, “are easily consumed by the reaction of this 5G technology and they die.”

This forced the Nigerian senate to order a committee investigation in May 2020, before they affirmed the health safety of the broadband in February 2021.

In France, a report by the independent government advisory body, commissioned by the French Senate, found that 5G deployment in the country would result in between 2.7 and 6.7 million tons of carbon(IV)oxide-equivalent in 2030. That’s a significant increase compared to the tech sector’s current total environmental impact of about 15 million tons of CO2-equivalent.

Operators and public authorities have nevertheless sought to find a political compromise to defuse a subject that has become even more controversial since the Citizen’s Climate Convention itself recommended a moratorium.

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In response, French President, Emmanuel Macron, asserted his ambition to bring superfast broadband to the popular tourist destination,

We’re going to explain, to debate, to put an end to all the false ideas but yes, France will make the 5G shift,” he said at a Paris tech event in September.

Several cities, initially recalcitrant, ended up letting operators activate their 5G networks, like Strasbourg, Lyon and Bordeaux.

However, Bordeaux, led by ecologist Pierre Hurmic, later said it was “sorry” for the late opening of local 5G in early.

Although 5G promises to ultimately offer a speed up to ten times faster than any available network, operators are mainly counting on it for the moment to avoid the saturation of their mobile networks.


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