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France

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IntroductionEdit

There are 4 'physical' network operators in France (listed according to number of subscribers) :

  • Orange (by France Télécom)
  • SFR (by Numericable)
  • Bouygues Télecom
  • Free Mobile (by Iliad)

Other providers are virtual mobile operators (MVNOs) based on Orange, SFR or Bouygues Télécom networks.

3G CoverageEdit

In France, the marketing word "3G" should be regarded as the following technologies: UMTS, HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSPA+.all on 900 and 2100 Mhz. Under no circumstance, HSPA+ or DC-HSPA+ is advertised as "4G" as it may still happen in some countries. 

According to the telecom authority (l'arcep), Orange and SFR cover more than 98% of the population, Bouygues is nearly at 95% and Free Mobile at about 75% of the population (not counting the roaming agreement with Orange). In practice, France has a 3G coverage in urban areas and most parts of the countryside. Some rural places with few inhabitants may only have EDGE.

Up to date coverage maps in 2G, 3G and 4G provided by the network operators can be found here: Orange, SFR, Bouygues Télécomand Free Mobile .

4G/LTE coverage and accessibilityEdit

The 4 operators have are rolling out their 4G/LTE nationwide. Orange and SFR use LTE bands on 800 MHz in the countryside and on 2600 MHz in the cities. Bouygues was granted permission in 2012 to "refarm" it's 1800 MHz 2G network into a 4G LTE network. Bouygues runs now on 1800 Mhz, 2600 Mhz additionally. Free only covers the some cities on 2600 Mhz. Bouygues and Orange have the best LTE coverage at around 80%, while SFR and free are below 40%.

Orange and SFR do not allow access to their new 4G LTE networks to prepaid customers yet, however they all offer rolling contracts which can be cancelled at free will. Bouygues has opened all its prepaid tariffs to 4G without surchage and free markets 4G heavily.

SIM card activationEdit

Activating a SIM card on a network can take up to 48 hours. You will need to show a photo ID to activate SIMs in France, as it is a legal requirement. A passport or driving licence usually suffice.

Rolling ContractsEdit

This French particularity called "forfait sans engagement" = rolling contract or auto-renewing monthly offer is prevalent in the following articles and needs some explanation for non-French visitors. A rolling contract is a kind of hybrid tariff between pre- and postpaid: You pay in advance and have cost control like prepay, but you have to enable an automatically recurring payment system. This can be linked e.g. to a French bank account or an international credit card. But the contract can be terminated at any time by free will.

These rolling contracts normally give you a much better rate for data in France than regular prepaid cards. The problem is the payment system which is often not accessible for foreigners without French credit cards or bank accounts. To draw a line here, offers which are confirmed to have been purchased at least by any non-French payment system are shown while other companies like B&You, Simyo or Sosh requiring French-only requisites are taken off the list. Please have this in mind, when you add an offer, that it needs to be accessible for foreigners too.

Summary of NetworksEdit

Operators on this page are strictly listed in alphabetical order (A-Z). No preference is made to their network status or size. This is to allow an impartial guide. To make it easier to find the right network on this page below is a summary of all the operators on this page (in alphabetical order). 

  1. Bienvenue Telecom - Wi-Fi hotspot rental service
  2. Bouygues Télécom - Pay-as-you-go offer
  3. Cellhire - Wi-Fi hotspot rental service
  4. Data-Roam - Prepaid SIM Card Rental
  5. Free Mobile - Rolling contract
  6. Le French Mobile - Pay-as-you-go offer
  7. Lebara mobile - Pay-as-you-go offer
  8. Lycamobile - Pay-as-you-go offer
  9. Moxx - WI-Fi hotspot rental service
  10. My Phone In Paris - Smartphone rental service (only in Paris)
  11. Orange - Pay-as-you-go offer
  12. SFR - Pay-as-you-go offer and Rolling Contract
  13. Travel Wifi - Wi-Fi hotspot rental service

Bienvenue Telecom Edit

Logo texte1

miniBox (aka Mi-Fi) 

They provide access through a Mifi router called "miniBox" establishing a Wi-Fi connection. Up to 10 devices can be connected on a 4G/LTE connection in France. The miniBox is delivered within three hours by express anywhere in Paris, in two days anywhere in France. After the rental, it need to be returned by mail. 

Rental Period Price
1 month € 150
1 week € 50
1 day € 10
  • Standard delivery charges: € 6
  • Express delivery charges: € 9

Internet plan comes with a FUP of 1 GB per day. Beyond this limit you can still use the service without any additional fees but it will be throttled. MiniBox has a minimum autonomy of 6 hours in intensive use.

Bienvenue has a partnership with Bouygues Télécom and uses their network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. For coverage information, please refer to Bouygues below.

Bouygues TélécomEdit

Bouygues Telecom
Bouygues Télécom is the 3rd largest network operator in France. Unlike the other players, its 4G/LTE is mainly on 1800 Mhz, 2600 Mhz and 800Mhz which is open for all prepaid users without surcharge. In 2015 it has the best 4G coverage in the country: coverage map

Their prepaid card Formule 20/20 has been discontimued in January 2015. They now only sell Card XL and Classique prepaid SIMs. The classic line doesn't include data.

Prepaid Card XL

Their prepaid line is available in their stores (store locator) with 12 months validity after the last top-up in these starter packs:

  • 2 €: including; unlimited domestic text and voice, 500 MB data and 1 € for international calls, valid for 2 days
  • 10 €: including: unlimited domestic text and voice, 500 MB data and 5 € for International calls, valid for 10 days
  • 20 €: including unlimited domestic text and voice, 500 MB data and 10 € for international calls, valid for 30 days

All packages include 4G/LTE speed, unlimited domestic calls and domestic texts. The bonus credit can be used for international calling. Recharging can be done online, by calling 630 or by buying a prepaid card in stores (e.g. 'tabac') in France. The 2 € package can only be topped up by a French credit card which must be added online or by calling 630. International credit cards do not work.

When topped up after the validity of the old package has expired, the new top up will be effective right away giving more validity. So you can topup 4 times 2€ for 2 days each and get 2 GB data for 8€ in a week (but only top up after 2 days or when the 500MB data has been used, it does not add up). They give a bonus of 10 € for top-ups of more then 50 € within two consecutive months.

Tablet plans

They have data SIMs for tablets on rolling contracts but you need to have a French credit card or bank account to charge it up.

Formule Touristes

In 2014 Bouygues Télécom started their tourist SIM called "Fomule Touristes". It's not clear if this offer will be available in 2015 again. It comprises of a SIM card valid for 7 days sold for 19.99 EUR preloaded with:

  • 300 MB of data (up to 4G)
  • unlimited domestic voice, texts and MMS
  • 4 (to rest of the world) to 12 (within the EU) minutes of international calls

More Info

  • APN: mmsbouygtel.com (this is for web too, not only MMS)

Cellhire Edit

Cellhire Logo

Cellhire offers an international data SIM card for France and most other countries around the world.

It's a 4G French data SIM card with 3 GB of data, on a 30 day rolling contract on the Orange network. It costs £29.99 for 30 days rental. When the 3 GB bundle runs out, the speed is reduced but you can continue to use data at no charge.

A 3G MiFi device can be added for £10 or a 4G MiFi device for £19. You'll need to pay £10 in advance as a refundable deposit.

4G coverage is limited and isn't available everywhere in France. Delivery is available to the UK for £4.99 and includes return delivery. To other places, rates may be higher, check with them. The 30 day rolling contract will continue until you return the SIM and MiFi.

dataroamEdit

Dataroam
Dataroam provides an international SIM card rental service in France (as well as many other countries). 

They sell a French 30 Day data SIM card for £49.99 (56.99€) which gives 3GB of data for a period of 30 days on a rolling contact basis on the Orange network. There is an additional £10 (€10.14) set up fee. The 3 GB plan cannot be used in a smartphone (without heavy surcharges). 

They also have similar packages for iPhone (£49.99 per 30 days) and Blackberry (£29.99 per 30 days) which include minutes and texts. The data SIM card can be sent to any UK or French address. You will need to provide proof of ID and the SIM card needs to be returned to conclude the rental contract. 

Free MobileEdit

Free mobile
Free Mobile shook the French market when it arrived on the scene in early 2012 by very low prices and new marketing methods.

CoverageEdit

Free Mobile is the smallest network and still in the process of building up : as of January 2015, the 3G coverage is above 75% of population whereas all of its other competitors cover 98+% of population. But as Free Mobile both uses the Orange network as a roaming network for 3G data, texts and voice and its own, the service is equal to Orange's and 3G speed is reported to be even faster than their competitors.

Free Mobile also offers 4G/LTE, but their network is the smallest right now with a low coverage (~50% of population). Take care: in their offers, you have plenty of data on their 4G plan, which is only activated if a 4G LTE2600 enabled device is detected, if not you will only have 3 GB of data. Free mobile is not roaming on the 4G LTE network from Orange, roaming only applies to their 2G and 3G networks.

Free Mobile owns a 15 Mhz band of 2600 MHz spectrum, allowing a theoretical 4G speed of 150Mbps with compatible devices (LTE cat4). Download speed of 140+ Mbps have been reported.

To cut a long story short: Free Mobile is a very good option if you have a LTE 2600 MHz enabled device, if not their 3G plan is not so cheap.

Rolling Contract offerEdit

Free Mobile offers only one 1 month rolling contract ("forfait sans engagement") for 19.99 EUR per month. It includes:

  • unlimited calls to France and landlines of lot of countries and mobile lines of a few countries;
  • unlimited SMS to France from France and from the EU;
  • unlimited MMS in France;
  • 3 GB of data in 3G (Orange roaming + Free Mobile network);
  • or 20 GB of data in 3G (Orange roaming + Free Mobile network) and 4G (Free Mobile network) if a compatible 4G device is detected (you can check the effective data allowance in your account);
  • automatic connection to EAP-SIM wifi networks "Freewifi_Secure", emitted by all the set top box of the operator (more than 5M hotspots);
  • if you keep the contract running during 60+ days : unlimited calls + texts (to France and the country visited), and 3GB of 3G data (debited from your national allowance) from these foreign countries : Belgium, Spain, UK, Germany, Austria, Greece, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, the French West Indies and French Guiana (35 days per calendar annum per country).

Tethering is allowed. The SIM comes ready for all phones/dongles (micro + ,ini). A nano SIM is on offer when you order online or within stores.

Free Mobile mobile is a contract without commitment: no fines for cancelling early and no activation fees. All credit/debit cards, not limited to French issued ones, should function fine - though this is contested by some forum users. (Automatic direct debit on a French bank account is also possible, as well as some other countries).

Prepaid SIM offer Edit

Starting from 2014, it is also possible to buy a 1-month only (not rolling) SIM from their ATM (see below), so you won't have to worry about cancellation after your leave !

You have basically two ways to get these SIMs :

  • They can be ordered online to be sent to a French postal address, or at brick and mortar locations which can be found in Paris (e.g. @ Metro Madeleine) and other locations throughout France called "Free Centers". Default online payment is with bank account details. To pay by debit card, under 'paiement de votre commande' on the right hand side, under the box there is a link which says "payer par carte bancaire". It will then change the box to one that allows you to enter the details of any card. Your bank may charge a transaction fee for using this.
  • Free also provides a SIM distribution circuit trough completely automated machines located both in their "Free center" stores and "Mag press" shops (map). You just need a debit card to use them, and you can get SIM within 2 minutes, very conveniently. There is an additional fee of 10 € to cover SIM issue charge and ATM maintenance though. More than 898 machines are available as of January 2015. Be sure to get the correct SIM for your phone because reissuing the SIM costs 5€.

More InfoEdit

LeFrenchMobileEdit

Le french mobile

LeFrenchMobile managed by the Transatel group runs on the good Orange network on 2G and 3G but not 4G/LTE and it's an MVNO designed for foreigners travelling to France. Its customer service is in English, Arabic and French. Their website is also available in Russian, Japanese and German.

Availability Edit

The SIM cards are available in 3 types (Nano as well as a combined Normal/Micro SIM). Furthermore it is possible to buy 3G USB dongles and Wifi hotspots such as AutoBox and HomeBox with SIM cards included.

Purchase online via their website. Delivery is free within the European Union and € 2 to the rest of the world. Payments can be made with any international Visa or MasterCard. Top-up online through the website.

Data SIM Edit

Their Data SIM can be used in tablets, smartphones and laptops. Purchase price for the SIM is €19 with 1GB included valid for 30 days. These following top ups are available:

Price Volume Validity
€ 5 200 MB

15 days

€ 15 1 GB 30 days
€ 38 3 GB 30 days

Euro SIM Edit

EuroSIM is available for calls, texts and internet data. Purchase price is €15 which includes 2hrs of calls to other LFM users, or 1hr call in France and the rest of EU (and many more world countries) or 171 texts. You can also get the SIM at €30 to have more communications included and benefit from their Free SIM offer.

Top-up online or in Tabac shops and newsagents that sell PaySafeCards. A bonus credit is given to any online top-up over €25.

Credit for the EuroSIM has no expiry date.

These following data packages are available (for domestic use in France):

Price

Volume

Validity

Activation

€ 5 200 MB 15 days FR200
€ 15 1 GB 30 days FR1GB
€ 38 3 GB 30 days FR3GB

European Data bundles are also proposed: 200MB for €19 and 1GB for €59 available in all European Union countries.

To activate a data bundle text one of the codes above to 22213.

Technical settings

  • APN (for Data SIM): mobiledata
  • APN (for Euro SIM): netgprs.com
  • Username and password: tsl

Additional Information

  • SIM cards have a 'Refer a Friend' scheme which can get an existing client and a new client credit € 20 bonus credit to share. To do this send an email with both names and numbers to info@lefrenchmobile.com within 14 days of the sale of the new SIM card
  • Though their prices may be higher than SIM cards bought within the country, their products can be ordered from overseas and will be delivered already activated to any foreign postal address. Arriving in France, they can be used right away without having to activate them.
  • Available to purchase in British Pounds (without foreign transaction fees) on eBay . Note: While this ebay "offer" saves you conversion fees from GBP to EUR when you are from the UK, it still involves a surcharge of 38% compared to the product purchased directly from the website (£1 = €1+38%). As the seller keeps on updating his ebay link, you might not yet have been aware of this in the UK.

Lebara MobileEdit

Lebara logo
Lebara mobile is a British-based MVNO with operations in several countries. In France, they resell Bouygues Télécom's service in 2G and 3G only. The website and customer service are available for a change in both French and English, making it a good choice for those with limited French language skills.

Start upEdit

Lebara mobile SIM cards can be ordered free of charge through Lebara's website, mailed to a French postal, address. Some users report that after a delay of 1-2 weeks, they may be mailed to a foreign address, if it is typed into the online form.  Alternatively, they can be purchased for 10 EUR (including 5 EUR of credit) from many French tabacs (tobacconists and kiosks), including the Relay outlets for instance at Charles de Gaulle airport. Print-your-own Eurostar tickets include a voucher for a free sim with €1 of credit and 100 MB in a couple of shops at the Gare du Nord station.  Recharges are available through the same channels,or by international credit card online. The SIM is a dual-cut standard and micro SIM, nano SIMs are available on request. Credit lasts from 30-90 days depending top-up amount. SIM cards that have not been used or topped up for 90 days will expire.

ActivationEdit

New SIM cards must be activated by providing a mail address, phone number, and ID number (e.g passport). Foreign details are OK. SIM cards ordered online and received in the mail will be pre-activated as the phone company has these details from the online form. SIMs bought from a shop can be activated by calling 2333 from your phone.This activation should be instant. You can select English on the voice menu (option 2). When you activate your SIM you are requested for your name, passport number and address. You can ask on the same call to buy your data package or any additional asistance. 

Data feature packagesEdit

These monthly packages are on offer:

Data Volume Price Activation Code
500 MB 5 EUR WEB500 to 22241
1 GB 8 EUR WEB1G0 to 22241
3 GB 15 EUR WEB3G0 to 22241

All packages renew automatically if there is credit. To stop, send <Package Code>*STOP to 22241. Default data rate outside packages is 0.15 EUR per MB.

When adding funds to the account, among the "free bonuses" is data

  • top up of €10 = 100 MB free
  • top up of €20  or more = 1GB free

Technical SettingsEdit

  • APN: fr.lebara.mobi
  • User: wap
  • Password: 1234

Affiliate ProgramEdit

You can order your SIM card from an existing member and get the SIM card for free (instead of 1 € in physical stores) plus a 5 € credit. The member also receive 5 €. Delivery takes about 2 to 3 days to a French postal address, uncertain time and availability to an oversea address. Here are links. (Contributors to this page are encouraged to add additional links —alpha order— for a healthier proposition. Readers are encouraged to pick a link randomly)

More infoEdit

LycamobileEdit

Lycamobile
Lycamobile is the biggest competitor of Lebara (see above) on the ethno market from Britain. It has a very similar prepaid offer like Lebara and acts as a MVNO on Bouygues Télécom's network in 2G and 3G too. The website and customer service are available in both French and English, making it a good choice for those with limited French language skills.

Start upEdit

Lycamobile SIM cards can be ordered free of charge through Lycamobile's website, mailed to a French postal, address. Alternatively, they can be purchased from many French tabacs (tobacconists and kiosks) and chain stores including Relay, Monoprix, Carrefour and others (store locator).  Recharges are available through the same channels,or by international credit card online by entering *131*<PIN>#.  The SIM is a dual-cut standard and micro SIM, nano SIMs are available on request. Credit lasts from 30-90 days depending top-up amount. SIM cards that have not been used or topped up for 90 days will expire.

New SIM cards must be activated by calling 323 (in French) from your phone or online here (in English) providing a mail address, phone number, and ID number (e.g passport).

Data feature packagesEdit

Default data rate outside of packages is 0.09 EUR per MB.

Data Package Price Data Time Activation Code
WebPass 100 2.99 € 100 MB 14 days 29100 to 3535
WebPass 500 4.99 € 500 MB 30 days 29250 to 3535
WebPass 1000 8 € 1 GB 30 days 81000 to 3535
WebPass 3000 15 € 3 GB 30 days 15300 to 3535

Technical SettingsEdit

  • APN: data.lycamobile.fr
  • User: lmfr (that's lowercase L, not capital i)
  • Password: plus

More infoEdit

  • Check credit balance and data allowance *131#
  • Support: 322 (0.15 EUR/min), in English 9 am - 9 pm (- 6 pm on weekends)
  • It does not seem possible to tether with Android. Not even with a rooted phone! NB: Their terms and conditions exclude tethering explicitly.
  • Website switch to English on top left "Langue"

MOXX Edit

Moxx

Moxx rents out mobile wifi hotspots (4G mifi) on a short term basis for travellers in France (for 3 days to 6 months) with internet access. Their mifi is only 9 * 6 cm of size and allows to connect up to 10 devices.

Order process Edit

You can order online via www.moxx.fr for a flat rate at 7.99 € per rental day. Delivery is by mail within France, takes up to three days and is free if you book for at least one week, otherwise 14 €, by courier within Paris for 7 € or by express within France for 24 €. Return is by mail in an insured, prepaid and registered envelope..

Connection Edit

Moxx connection uses the network of Bouygues Télécom (coverage see above) in up to 4G where available and allows VoIP. Their "unlimited" internet has a Fair Use Policy of 10 GB (for the rental period) after which speed will be throttled. All liability for the device (set at 150 €) is on side of the renter.

More information Edit

https://www.moxx.fr

My Phone in ParisEdit

My phone in paris

My Phone in Paris is a smartphone rental solution that includes unlimited phone calls (France and international, mobile and landlines, incl. Europe, US, Canada and China), unlimited text messages, unlimited internet, a wise selection of great apps (GPS, travel guides, communication, social networks, etc.) and exclusive deals.

  • 15 € per day, no extra fee including free delivery in Paris

More info: http://www.myphoneinparis.com/

OrangeEdit

Orange logo
Orange S.A., formerly France Télécom S.A. is a French multinational telecommunications corporation. Back in history, France Telecom was the French public operator. Nowadays its still the market leader with the best coverage and most subcribers. 4G/LTE is accessible for Let's Go, but not for Mobicarte (see below).

Mobicarte (Voice & data SIM)Edit

This is the Orange prepaid SIM card that allows making calls, sending SMS and some internet usage in 2G and 3G.

You can buy Orange prepaid Mobicarte SIM online from sites like http://mobipassport.com or velonomad.com, this this can be more expensive. But you get your number before you depart and your card activated to use your service as soon as you arrive.

To buy a SIM from an Orange Boutique  (store locator) in France for 3.90 EUR. You must bring your drivers license or passport to register. The bonus of that is that the card will work straight away. If you buy from anywhere else, you will have to send in a copy of your ID and it can take several days to be able to access data.

Dialing #123# for the first time presents you a menu of options on the Welcome / Information ("Accueil") screen. Here you'll see some options with offers, an entry to access a sort of account overview / usage ("suivi conso"), one to enter Mobicarte ticket codes called recharges ("recharger"), and finally where you manage your account's features ("Mon espace"). If you don't know French, it can be a bit daunting as it seems every menu presents options you can purchase. It is definitely over-complicated, just as every French site / online service I've ever used. To add credit to your SIM, buy one of the classic recharge vouchers "Les recharges classiques" from a tabac shop, magazine shop, or grocery store (the big ones like Monoprix, Franprix, etc. should have them). These are common everywhere, including airports & train stations (at CDG international terminal, you can buy them at the Relay newspaper stand at the RER-B station). To add credit, dial #123# then find the "recharger" option and enter the 14-digit code.

Default Data rateEdit

Without a data plan, Internet is extremely expensive at 0.50 € per minute.

Data SpeedsEdit

Orange restricts the maximum speed attainable on Mobicarte to 384 kbps downstream. If high speeds are important to you, it may be better to look at SFR. It's important to note that Orange's prepaid mobile broadband offer ("Let's Go") does not have this limitation and allows 4G/LTE access.

Data feature packagesEdit

If you plan on going to a Boutique to buy a SIM, you can purchases these packs there too. I recommend you load the recharge options page on your phone beforehand so you can show them exactly what you want. Some stores have employees who are not familiar with the packs or may not even know that data is available for pre-paid so it is helpful to show them the site, particularly if your French is not very good.

Les recharges maxEdit

Price Data Validity included unlimited
5 EUR 20 MB 1 week 1h free calls, free SMS
10 EUR 100 MB 1 week free calls, SMS, MMS
20 EUR 600 MB 1 month free calls, SMS, MMS
30 EUR 2 GB 1 month free calls, SMS, MMS

All free calls, SMS and MMS are domestic.

Les recharges internet mobileEdit

  • 5 EUR: 150 MB in one week
  • 10 EUR: 500 MB in two weeks

You can buy several at a time and enter a new code to re-enable the feature once the old one expires.  

Mobicarte HolidayEdit

For visitors Orange offers its "Mobicarte Holiday". It is sold for 20 EUR and valid for 14 days including

  • 1 hour of global international calls to anywhere in Europe
  • 500 international SMS from anywhere in Europe
  • 1 GB data within France
  • Unlimited Orange Wi-Fi

Restrictions Edit

This data plan is for mobile phones and may or may not work on other gear. If you're interested in data for a WIFI hotspot or dongle, you would be better off with the Let's Go option (see below). P2P, VoIP and USENET are specifically banned. VOIP services will fail to initialize properly. There's risk getting your plan cancelled as well as the loss of any call credit remaining on your account if you use P2P, VOIP, or USENET services.

As for VPN, it may or may not work. There are examples when VPN worked, one of them is OpenVPN 2.1.1 under Windows 7. VPN on iPhone worked in July 2012.

Supposedly you are to be notified by SMS as soon as it is activated but I have never received this in the 5 years I've had my SIM. The safest way to confirm an option is active is by looking at your account online .

ExpirationEdit

MobiCarte SIM card credits expire after some time if no recharge is applied during that period. After registering your SIM for the first time and topping it up with credits, the SIM number will stay in operation for 6 months. You can check the expiration date online when you create an account, but you will probably also get an SMS stating the expiration date. If you'd like to keep your number active, add a small amount of credit before the expiration date and it'll be extended another 6 months.

Expiration of recharge credits depends on the amount. Also, recharge codes have a time limit before they must be used. For example, 10€ electronic recharge should be activated (i.e. added to account) within 15 days of purchase.

SIM SizesEdit

Full, micro, nano SIM.

TetheringEdit

Tethering / WIFI-hotspot is not included in data usage (tested on iPhone and Android Galaxy 4S). iPhone will NOT allow tethering, and you are redirected to a purchase page (25 € for 1 GB, 30 days) if you try to enable it. The page must be accessed over cellular and not WIFI.

It is possible to achieve tethering on Android by using the wifi hotspot in conjunction with a proxy app, e.g. Proxy Server by Ice Cold Apps. The use of a 3rd party tethering app on an Android phone, or a jailbroken iPhone may just get you around this.

Let's Go (= Data-Only Sim) Edit

Let's Go is a data-SIM only offering from Orange France. It is designed for use in a tablet, portable wifi hotspot (MiFi) or USB dongle. SIM cards are available from Orange Boutiques throughout France (locator above). Just ask for the 'Pochette prêt à surfer'. They will want to know what device you will use it in and what size you require. Starter pack costs € 9.90 and includes 500 MB valid for one month. At the time of purchase in the boutique, you will need to provide a passport or driving licence which is a requirement under French law. It takes on average 24 hours to fully update the system with your details and during that time you will not be able to top up. However the original data allowance will work as soon as you walk out of the shop.

Data feature packagesEdit

There are four values of recharges:

Value Data Time
3 EUR 200 MB 1 day
10 EUR 1 GB 7 days
20 EUR 2 GB 31 days
30 EUR 3 GB 6 months

All packages include unlimited Orange WI-FI from hotspots in France and 30 TV channels debited on the data volume. With Let's go, Orange lets you join their 4G/LTE network on high speed. 

To obtain a recharge you must again visit the Orange Boutique and ask for a rechargement por Let's Go sim. There may be some faffing about whilst they work out amongst themselves exactly what you want, but show them your SIM or documentation with your Orange internet number and they will soon get there. Often they will print out a sheet of paper for you which contains a telephone number for you to ring  to activate the top up and a 14 digit top up number. It is possible to activate your top up online, but only after you have topped up by telephone once. Crazy, but that's how it is. 

If you do not wish to top up by visiting the Orange shop, then you become limited to topping up your account using vouchers for the standard PAYG telephone service called Mobicarte. You can then convert the account balance online to Let's Go packages. The Orange site is far from user friendly, so I do not recommend this route unless you are well versed in French. Let's Go top ups are often avalable on eBay and may well prove to be a good option for you to save messing about in shops upon arrival. But you will pay a premium for this option in so much as you will be paying extra for the time of the seller to obtain the vouchers etc. Note, you can also buy pre-activated Let's Go SIM's on eBay.

Restrictions and allowancesEdit

The Let's Go SIM does not allow the use of  Peer to Peer downloads eg. Torrents, or the use of some binary newsgroups . However for email, browsing and almost everything else it works just fine. You can receive SMS to your SIM which can be viewed in the control panel for your device, but the option to send SMS will not be available.

On the other hand, tethering is not restricted and VoIP is allowed.

Domino 3G KeyEdit

Orange sells it's own portable 3G wifi hotspot called a Domino. Currently it is a Huawei E5331. This allows you to set up wifi for multiple device, ie. get around the issue of not being able to tether with the Mobicarte, and means you don't need to set up data service on your phone. Cost: 44.90 EUR for the device + 500 MB valid for a month  Recharge options with "Let's Go" vouchers. It seems the SIM card stays valid for one year, vs. 6 months for the Mobicarte.

Authentication: the blurb inside says you need to provide authentication, ie. fill in a form and send a photocopy of a passport to Orange. If you buy from an Orange boutique, they should activate it for you. If you get it from elsewhere then you will have to mail off copies of your ID docs.

This device is locked to Orange France and won't be of much use elsewhere unless you get it unlocked, but for less than one euro you wil be able to purchase a unlock code on Ebay.

Topping UpEdit

In order to top up by phone, call 0800 224 from a mobile or landline. Free from Orange lines, a small fee may be charged from others. You will be immediately asked by a female voice in French to enter your Orange number. This is the telephone number assigned to your SIM and normally begins with 06 or 07.

You will then be presented with two options, the first to top up by credit card. Ignore this, the second option is to top up using voucher. Press 2 on your keypad. The same voice will ask you for your 14 digit voucher number. Enter that and depending on which service you got connected to, you may have the number read back to you with the option to confirm or try again.

You will then have a confirmation in the same voice but with a triumphant timbre to it. The process should take about 30 seconds from start to finish. The top up should then be applied to your SIM and you will be ready to go.

Orange online accountEdit

You will automatically have an account created for you on the Orange.fr website, you can log into your account using the SIM telephone number. Once done, you can edit your personal information, email address etc. You can even set up an Orange France email address if you like. It is important to note that you cannot top up online using a credit card that is not registered in France. But you can buy top ups in the boutique using foreign cards.

Technical SettingsEdit

APN, Password and Username: orange

Let's Go - Password and Username: orange APN: orange.fr

SFREdit

SFR
SFR is the 2nd largest network in France and the biggest rival of Orange. It used to belong to Vivendi, but has been sold to the cable company Numericable. It has good coverage nationwide in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE similar to Orange. SFR is the local partner of Vodafone in France. 4G/LTE is not accessible for prepaid yet, but only to rolling contracts.

La CarteEdit

Their prepaid SIM is simply called la Carte. The starter pack called “Kit SFR la Carte” is available online to be send to a French postal address or at their shops (shop locator). The start-up price has been reduced to 1.99-3.99 EUR, but it comes without credit in regular, micro or nano size.

When you buy it in their shops, let them activate it there showing your photo ID. Bought online or at other shops, you can activate it on their website or by calling 963 for free (in French).

Recharges can be bought at many places like bureaux de tabac, Relay and big chains like Auchan, Carrefour, Leclers, FNAC. They can be bought online too, but you need at least an European credit card with a chip for payment. For an English recharge menu call 958. But it’s best to purchase your recharges at the top-up terminals in some SFR shops. Otherwise it may take up to 24 hours until the recharge actually is activated.

Recharges IlimitéesEdit

These recharge packs all include domestic calls, unlimited domestic SMS, a data quota and unlimited SFR Wifi

Price Voice Data Validity
5 EUR 1 hour 20 MB 5 days
10 EUR unlimited 100 MB 10 days
20 EUR unlimited 600 MB 1 month
30 EUR unlimited 2 GB 1 month

Recharges InternetEdit

Only one package is offered for data-only:

  • 9 EUR including 1 GB in 7 days.

Data is cut off when quota is reached. Speed is 3G up to DC-HSPA (42 Mbps). No 4G/LTE.

Welcome CarteEdit

Like Orange and Bouygues, they have a tourist SIM for visitors. It’s sold for 15 EUR (plus 1.99 EUR for the card), is valid for 10 days and preloaded with:

  • 1 hour of voice to France and Europe
  • 500 SMS to France and Europe
  • 500 MB of data
  • Unlimited SFR Wifi

All the recharges whether Ilimitées, Internet or Welcome can be renewed anytime to get more data or validity. No tethering or use in modems allowed, strictly for smartphones. The free Wifi must be subscribed once by calling 963 for free.

Prepaid data-only SIMEdit

SFR offers a prepaid data-only SIM for tablets and modems too. The starter kit is called “Kit prêt à surfer SIM standard”. It only comes in regular size SIM, but these can be cut. It’s sold for 9.90 EUR with 200 MB valid for 15 days.

It can be recharged with the “SFR Connecté Partout prepayée” vouchers:

  • 3 EUR: 200 MB, 1 day
  • 10 EUR: 1 GB, 7 days
  • 35 EUR: 4 GB, 30 days

These recharges must be bought in the shops and loaded on the card on your SFR account online. Speed is up to DC-HSPA and 42 Mbps in 3G. Data is cut off when reached quota.

Rolling ContractsEdit

SFR also offers cheaper “forfaits sans engagement” = rolling contracts (see introduction) for data in modems, routers or tablets. They can be terminated anytime. Unlike prepaid, they have access to 4G/LTE with speeds up to 115 Mbps. Free unlimited Wifi is included after calling 963.

The starter pack for “SFR Connecté Partout forfait sans engagement” is sold for 1 EUR only in their stores, when you make the rolling contract. You can add one of these three packages:

  • 1 GB – 7.99 EUR per month
  • 5 GB – 14.99 EUR per month
  • 12 GB – 24.99 EUR per month.

For EU roaming on Vodafone networks, SFR offers these weekly add-ons called Pack Séjour Internet:

  • 500 MB - 9 EUR
  • 1 GB - 15 EUR

The problem is like always that SFR likes to see a French credit card or bank account linked to it, though some SFR shops are willing to mark your payment method as "other" to allow you to come in and pay by cash or credit card in person. With international cards they accept at least American Express credit cards on your name as a confirmed payment method. If you only have a Visa or MasterCard from out of the country, your only option is to pay in store; for foreign cards paying over the phone is only possible with AmEx and not at all online.

Cancellation is not as easy as previously said; it is not possible online, you must call SFR customer service at 1023 (domestic landline or SFR mobile) or +33610001023 (from overseas). Wait for two French voice prompts, press 3 for tablets/mobile internet, press 4 for termination, press 2 to be directed to a SFR customer service person (whose English ability will be hit or miss). The cancellation process should take less than an hour, though instead of cancelling straight away the line will be set to automatically cancel in the next few days. It is advised to provide your address overseas as any refund of excess charges will be mailed in the form of a cheque. The dedicated English-language customer service line is only for La Carte customers.

More infoEdit

  • APN: sl2sfr /or/  slsfr /or/ wapsfr /or/ websfr  - (if one does not work, try another)
  • English speaking customer service: 1026 available Mon-Sat 8-20 hrs (for la Carte only)

Travel WifiEdit

Travel Wifi hotspot

Travel Wifi rents personal Wifi hotspots (also called Mifi) giving up to 4G speed connection on the Bouygues Télécom network (for coverage see above). It is a small device that fits in your pocket with automatic connectivity and English speaking support services. Here is Travel Wifi's presentation video: youtube.com/watch?v=kI82CPh7KoI

Rental Edit

To rent your mobile hotspot, log onto their website and book it with a few clicks. The hotspot is delivered via standard mail in France or courier services inside of Paris to any French postal address. Clients can also choose to pick up their device at Travel Wifi's office in Paris city center. Once you have received your hotspot, the connection is unlimited in up to 4G speed! The Wifi signal can be shared with up to 10 devices at the same time. The return is in a provided prepaid envelope, that you need to drop in a mailbox.

Rates Edit

They have charges according to the rental duration: For 3 days, the price is 10€/day. A week is 8€/day going down to 7€/day for 20 days, 6€/day for 30 days or longer. 

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