Have you recently shifted to France? With our guide to find the best French mobile network, a French mobile phone, and a SIM card, you can stay in touch with your new friends and colleagues in France.

If you’re an expat moving to France, you’ll be relieved to know that you can easily stay connected. France has good 4G coverage and a growing number of operators. Many of these provide excellent SIM and mobile options for expats and visitors.

There is increased competition in the French mobile market. It has compelled operators to develop various low-cost mobile services. However, finding the right SIM in France can be difficult with many options.

The Mobile Network In France

France has a good mobile network that allows expats and visitors to connect easily. France uses the GSM network rather than the CDMA network. In general, newcomers should have no trouble connecting to the local network. Your smartphone should work in France even if you travel from a country that uses the CDMA network.

Despite its size, most of France is covered by 4G or 4G+ coverage. However, connectivity can vary greatly depending on your French mobile operator, so check coverage in your area before signing up. This is especially true in rural communities, though 3G will still be available in these areas. You can connect to local 5G networks in some larger cities, including Paris and Marseille.

Wi-Fi Connectivity In France

Although public Wi-Fi is not widely available in France, some larger cities do have Wi-Fi hotspots where you can connect. Some public institutions and buildings, such as libraries, museums, and public transportation, frequently provide free Wi-Fi. 

Can I Use My Personal Mobile Phone In France?

Most visitors and expats arriving in France find connecting their phones to the local GSM mobile network simple. Those from countries that use the CDMA network, such as Japan, parts of the United States, and Canada, are exceptions. Many modern smartphones will still connect automatically. To avoid disappointment, you should always check with your operator ahead of time about costs and connectivity.

If your phone doesn’t connect to the French network, you might consider purchasing a cheap, pre-paid mobile phone when you arrive. These cost around €30 and will be limited to calls and SMS messages. However, these can be an excellent way to stay connected. Alternatively, you can purchase a world phone in your home country before traveling to France.

All arrivals from the EU/EEA can use their phone at home at the same rates, including data usage. This is due to the elimination of roaming charges within the EU in 2017. However, double-check with your operator before traveling to avoid unexpected charges while in France.

If you’re moving to France or intend to stay for an extended period, you’ll probably want to purchase a French SIM card or even a new phone. A SIM card will be less expensive in France, though you may need to have your phone unlocked at a local phone shop. Fortunately, there are numerous French mobile operators to choose from, each offering different deals based on usage and budget. Some companies, such as SFR and Orange, offer discounts if you combine your mobile contract with a home phone, internet, or TV service.

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French Mobile Operators

The French mobile sector is competitive, with an increasing number of French cell phone companies on the market. This means plenty of options for newcomers, with operators offering good value for money. As a result, it pays to shop around. Consider your other connections, such as home internet and TV, to see if you can save money by combining the contracts.

In France, mobile operators include the following:

  • Bouygues TĂ©lĂ©com
  • Coriolis
  • La Poste Mobile
  • Lebara Mobile
  • Lycamobile
  • Orange
  • Prixtel
  • RĂ©glo Mobile
  • SFR

Orange is France’s largest and most popular mobile operator, with a market share of more than 30%. France’s second-largest operator is SFR (with around 30% of the market), trailing only Bouygues Télécom and Free Mobile, which have about 15%. In terms of coverage, these four networks are frequently the best. They also all provide home internet and television services that can be combined with a mobile phone subscription.

Aside from these four major operators, numerous other French mobile providers are also known as MVNOs (virtual network operators). So, these service providers do not operate their networks and instead rely on one of the four major networks. In general, smaller providers may not have as good coverage in more rural areas. They are, however, less expensive and usually have good coverage in France’s larger cities.

Comparing French Mobile Operators

Don’t know which operator to choose? Not to worry, a few price comparison websites are just waiting to assist you. These can help you better understand your options for selecting an operator. Some also provide discounts to first-time subscribers. Among the French comparison sites are:

  • Edcom
  • Je Change
  • Que Choisir

Mobile Phone Coverage In France

In France, mobile coverage (couverture, réseaux) is typically better in larger cities, with an increasing number offering 5G connectivity. In rural areas, coverage can be temperamental, but connectivity is often better than expected. Visit NPerf or Arcep to check coverage in your area before signing up for a contract.

In general, larger operators provide better coverage, particularly in more rural areas. In larger towns and cities, however, coverage varies little between providers. This will give you more freedom to shop around for the best contract for you.

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Prepaid Vs Mobile Contracts

Expats arriving in France can purchase a prepaid SIM card or sign up for a mobile phone contract. Prepaid SIM cards are generally the quickest and easiest way to connect. You can make calls, send text messages, and use mobile data with these. This is a good option if you only need a French SIM card to get by and don’t want to commit to a long contract.

However, you may prefer a mobile contract’s security and cost-saving benefits. A subscription will save you money on calls, texts, and data if you use your phone frequently. This is a good option if you intend to stay in France for an extended period or want a contract that includes the most recent smartphone.

You can select your preferred mobile operator if your phone is unlocked and compatible with the French mobile network. If your previous operator has a connection in France, it may be preferable to stick with them.

Mobile Contracts In France

Prepaid SIM cards are typically more expensive than French mobile phone subscriptions (forfaits, abonnements). Contracts frequently include a set number of calls, texts, and mobile data allowances. The tariff you select will determine how much you pay. Such mobile contracts can be even cheaper if combined with your home phone, internet, and television connections. These are available from larger providers such as SFR and Orange.

French mobile phone contracts can be SIM-only or include a handset. Contracts are typically 12 or 24 months in length, so read the fine print before signing up. You will probably be required to pay a small, one-time activation fee at the start of your contract. Monthly payments are collected via direct debit (prélevement automatique), and you must provide payment information when signing up.

Alternatively, some service providers provide rolling contracts (forfait sans engagement). These mobile contracts renew monthly but can be canceled at any time. So, these are generally more expensive than fixed-term contracts, but they can be an excellent option for those who require additional flexibility.

How To Get A French Mobile Phone Contract

You can sign up for a French mobile phone contract easily. You can either sign up online or in a telecom shop. Most major French telecom providers have retail locations in town centers. However, shop employees may not speak English, so be prepared to practise your French.

To sign up, you will most likely need to provide the following information:

  • Proof of identity
  • Address in France
  • French bank account for payment

If you do not already have a French bank account, you must open one before signing your mobile contract. 

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French SIM Cards

In France, prepaid SIM cards (sim carte prépayée) offer greater flexibility than mobile phone contracts but are generally more expensive. This means they’re a good choice if you don’t plan on using your phone frequently or if you’re only staying for a short time. Prepaid SIM cards are available from all major mobile operators in France, so shop around to find the best network for you and your usage.

SIM cards can be purchased from various locations, including dedicated telecom stores, supermarkets, electronics stores, and vending machines. French SIM cards can also be purchased online and delivered to your home. If you buy in-store, you must show your ID to complete the transaction, as this is a legal requirement.

Prepaid SIM cards are typically pre-loaded with credit (crédit d’appels inclus). Credit can then be added by purchasing top-up cards in stores or online. These are available at various prices (typically €5, €10, €20, and so on). Some prepaid SIM cards include free data, so you should shop around for the best SIM for your needs.

It is also possible to purchase international SIM cards in France that offer low rates in various countries. These can be a great option if you intend to contact friends and family in a specific country or region frequently while in France.

French Mobile Phone Numbers

In France, telephone numbers are classified into geographical numbers, mobile numbers, and other services. All numbers have ten digits and begin with a 0. The starting two digits of a phone number determine which category it belongs to:

  • 01/02/03/04/05 – These numbers are geographical numbers based on where you are in France. In Paris, for example, phone numbers begin with 01 and continue with eight digits.
  • 06/07 – These numbers are phone numbers for mobile phones. A mobile phone number, for example, could begin with 06 and continue with eight digits.
  • 08/09 – These are non-geographic numbers that cover free phone numbers and other services.

You must include the country’s international dialing code when dialing a French phone number from a location outside France. This is either 0033 or +33. You then remove the first 0 from the mobile number. A mobile phone number, for example, could be 0033 6 12 34 56 78.

You might be able to have the same French number if you change mobile phone providers in France. Speak with your new operator to see if you can change your phone number.

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French Mobile Phone Laws

If you use a mobile phone in France, you should be aware of the local laws and regulations. Some of the French laws concerning mobile phones are as follows:

  • Drivers who use their handheld phone while driving face a fine and points on their license unless they stop and pull into a designated parking space.
  • Mobile phone use is prohibited on school grounds for children aged 3 to 15.

Useful Resources

  • La MĂ©diation des Communications Électronique – It is a french telecoms mediation service
  • ARCEP – It is a regulatory body for French telecoms