France has 3G coverage in urban areas and parts of the countryside. Many rural places only have edge, which is considerably slower than 3G but still allows you to access the internet. 3G coverage maps in France can be found here: Orange, SFR, Bouygues Télécom, Free Mobile.
There is 4 'physical' networks operators in France : Orange, SFR (Vodaphone), Bouygues Télecom and Free Mobile. Other providers are mobile virtual operators based on Orange, SFR or Bouygues Télécom. Activating a Simcard on these networks or a data package can take up to 48 hours.
Hired mobile hotspots come pre-activated.
dataroam.co.uk provide a pre-paid international SIM card for use in France as well as a country specific 30 Day data SIM card from Orange. Both allow you to avoid expensive roaming charges whilst in France. Saving a huge 90%+ versus roaming by paying just £0.02/MB.
Of particular interest is the French 30 Day data SIM card. This offers the cheapest data rate available to UK travellers. For £49.99 (56.99€) you get 3GB of data per 30 days. There are no deposits and all you need to do is pay a £10.00 (10.14€) set-up free.
The data SIM card can be sent to a UK or French address. However you will need to provide proof of ID and the SIM card does need to be returned to conclude the rental.
From the website, the 3Gb plan cannot be used in a phone, and the smartphone plans are limited to 2Gb, with £2 per MB above. And none of these offer a way to monitor your data usage. Is there something I did not see? Lastly, what is dataroam's status? A grey market simcard reseller or they have a contract with Orange?
One local rate to call all Europe, USA, Canada, Asia, Australia
50% discount on calls between LeFrenchMobile users
Unlimited credit validity (no expiry!), except that there is a monthly fee of €1.40 for each month in which less than €10 of credit is used.
Expensive data bundles to stay connected
All services in English (website, customers service, documentation...) LeFrenchmobile sells standard SIM cards, micro SIM cards, mobile packs and 3G dongles, all devices are unlocked. You can order directly online and get delivered at your home address before leaving (FREE delivery of SIM cards in Europe).
9'€' phone SIM activates instantly in-store with expensive internet. Add cheaper internet by returning next-day and buying a 9'€' 'internet pack, this takes 2-3 days to activate. 'Working as of 22 Aug 2012.
-- NOTE REPORTS AS OF MAY 2013 THAT THE 9 EURO "INTERNET MAX" OPTION MAY NO LONGER BE AVAILABLE - ORANGE CHANGED THEIR PLANS IN EARLY APRIL 2013 - ALL INTERNET BUNDLE OPTIONS ARE NOW LIMITED -- INFORMATION BELOW MAY BE OUT OF DATE- --
Mobicarte is Orange's prepaid plan.Edit
TLDR - SummaryEdit
21 May 2012, I asked the Orange locations for mobicarte pre-paid with data (1 week) near Republique and was told it's not possible (and expensive). Worked fine at Defense and Forum Les Halles. Requires driver license or passport. Activation occured in-store, and I left with a fully working device (restart your phone & test before leaving). Reception is good, and works with email, http, and https.
Default data ratesEdit
Without a data plan, Internet is extremely expensive at 50 cents per minute.
Data feature packsEdit
All presented options below are working on 08/24/2012.
A good-value unlimited data option on Mobicarte for an individual smartphone user is "Option Internet Max" which costs 9€ and provides unlimited data for 1 month with automatic renewal if there is enough credit. "Option Internet Max" does NOT include the use of email protocols and does not necessarily work in dongles. (See Below). (Note that after 500meg has been used up, the speed of data is then severely restricted, this was verified by Orange France sales person to the company internal helpline 1/5/2012 ).
Option Internet Max doesn't include the use of email protocols (SMTP, POP, IMAP). For email a separate prepaid plan can be bought at 6€. However if your email service provides it, then you can use browser-based HTTP access which is included in Internet Max. Hotmail, Gmail and almost all other free providers use browser-based access as standard, as long as they are accessed through your browser. GMail application for Android also uses HTTP, not POP/IMAP. If you are using an e-mail program to access your data however, chances are that it is using an e-mail protocol like POP/IMAP/Exchange, which will be billed separately unless you are on a 6€ e-mail plan. Email without an email plan is charged per 10Kb, which can go very quickly especially if you have attachments or your smartphone checks emails regularly in the background.
This data plan is for mobile phones and may or may not work on other gear. (With an iPhone you are unable to activate tethering. Orange redirects to a purchase page where you have the option to purchase a block of credit valid for tethering.) 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.
If you want to avoid the 500meg limit and/or access internet with iPad or notebook you could choose a more expensive option called "Semaine Internet Max" with unlimited full speed data and not limited to smartphones. Email protocols are not included. It costs 7€ and is valid 7 days without automatic renewal. It can be used e.g. with a dongle or a WIFI mobile router and worked successfully in 2012 offering Internet access for 2 iPhones, 1 iPad and 2 Notebooks at the same time. Viber and Skype worked as well.
Your phone must be provider unlocked so it can work with the Orange France service (even if you are with Orange in your country).
Ed: I managed to use it in my Huawai E160G dongle, last tested on 13 Jan 12Edit
last tested in iPhone 4S, 17 April 2012; Did not work in new iPad (3rd Gen) when tested April 10, 2012
an0pheles: I managed to use it in my Lenovo X121e with Ericsson-UMTS-Module (Ericsson F5521gw) on June, 13., 2012. The menu for booking the option changed a little, but should be no problem. In Ubuntu-Linux I had to set the configuration to: APN: orange, user: orange, pass: orange.
To obtain unlimited data, first purchase an Orange SIM card (9.90€ at shop or 7.90€ online; 5€ of credit included) frequently referred itself as Mobicarte by Orange staff, and top it up with enough credit to buy the data plan. Make sure your basic contact information is entered in DB by sales person (first and last name and country were enough in my case), it's required for data option subscribtion. iPhone 4 or iPad users will need a micro SIM card, which costs 9.90 in store and 7.90 online (as of February 2012). For safety, don't put too much credit on your SIM, in case something goes wrong. Before you put the SIM in your phone, the first thing to do is to disable 3G and cellular data use. Especially if you have an iPhone or other smartphone, your phone may quickly start sucking the credits out of your account at 50 cents/minute while you are setting up your data plan, as smart phones tend to access the internet in the background even when you are not browsing or accessing e-mail manually. After disabling data and putting in the SIM, the best way of activating the Internet Max option is by dialing #123# and using the written menu system. It's all in French, so can be a bit difficult to get through. As of August 2012, these are the steps to go through:
- Dial #123#
- You get a startup menu showing the credit on your prepaid account. You need enough credit on your account to buy the data plan.
- Choose 1 (or 3)=Menu
- Choose 4=Bons plans
- Choose 4=Internet et e-mails
- Choose 3=Option Internet Max for this option or 5=Suite and 4=BP Semaine Internet Max for the other option
- Now you get a description, choose 1=Suite a few times
- Then choose 1=Souscrire (Subscribe).
- Finally, choose 1=Valider (Confirm).
Note that you won't be allowed to subscribe (item 8 or 9 above would provide you with error response) until information about you is validated in Orange DB. It took between 8 and 16 hours in my case, don't worry, just keep trying every hour until it works.
Note-2013-02-02: #123# menu is significantly different (Android Galaxy Nexus). Dial #123#, choose 4=Mon espace, 3=Ajouter une option / un pass, 5=Suite, 1=Internet + mail, 2=Option Internet max *OR* 5=Suite *THEN* 1=BP Semaine Internet Max, 1=Suite, 1=Souscrire, 1=Valider (which will fail until Orange DB is updated as noted). Confirmed fully operational on this date - tethering also fully functional (Android). Small thing to know - you cannot order BP Semaine Internet Max between midnight and 02h00. Once ordered however, data was active within 30 minutes (no confirmed SMS had yet arrived - just monitor #123# to see when your credit is debited).
Officially the option may take 48 hours to come into effect, however in reality it usually takes less than 3 hours.
You will usually be notified by sms as soon as it is activated but sometimes no sms is sent; after 3 hours it is worth to check if your internet is activated: use #123# menu too: once the option is activated, 1st menu item is changed to 1=Suivi conso options which would provide you the information that Internet Max is on.
The exact menu may change, so the above may not be exactly correct for your particular session. There are other internet options listed in the menu, although they are not good value. Only the "'Option 'Internet Max" choice will give you unlimited access for a full month. It costs 9€, and is automatically renewed each month. However, if there is not sufficient credit on your card to renew the plan, renewal will automatically be cancelled until you reactivate (after having topped up the account). So there is no worry about being billed for it unless you put a lot of credit into your account.
- BP Journee Internet Max lasts for one day at 3€
- BP Week End Internet Max lasts for a weekend at 5€
- BP Semaine Internet Max lasts for 7 days for 7€.
- BP Mois Internet Max lasts 30 days for 9€ *** apparently no longer available as of early 2013 ***
A heads up that Orange restrict the maximum speed attainable on Mobicarte to 384kbps 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 pricing starts at €10/1GB.
You can also add mail access (POP3, SMTP, IMAP) at 6€, also in the Votre Multimedia menu.
Using #123# is free, so you can spend as much time as you like here exploring the options.
If #123# does not work you can try dialing 220. This is a spoken menu so it can be even more difficult to get through if you don't speak French.
You can also call customer service, but they charge something like 35 cents a minute, and probably don't speak English.
The options on the Orange website seem to be different to those on #123# - the website only offers a 200Mb limited package for 9€/Month (this option is not for the Mobicarte, it is for a contract (forfait)). The menus are rather complicated to navigate - this page lists the options available.
After all this is set up, be sure to re-enable your 3G and data services (and to disable email unless you bought a email plan).
Note: You may not be able to add the Internet Max option to your account until your registration information has been added to Orange's systems, this may take 24 hours initially. If your registration has not been added yet, you will get an error message if you try to activate the 'Internet Max' option, stating in French that you need to go to a point of sale with your ID. If you order you SIM over the Orange website it does not arrive pre-registered. Although you can activate it, you then still need to go to a shop with your SIM and ID to have your identity registered to your SIM in Orange's systems before you can actually buy the internet MAX option plans.
Note 2: I had to go into network settings and cellular network and change the APN setting to
APN: orange, username: orange and password: orange.
Likely you will not receive any notification of InternetMax option activation. You can test whether the plan is in effect by this procedure;
- Check your prepaid credit amount by dialing #123# or create an online account on orange.fr.
- Do a tiny bit of web surfing.
- Allow up to 5 minutes for billing to catch up.
- Again check your credits and compare against the original amount. If no money has been deducted, likely your Internet option is in effect.
Orange only guarantees 500MB of traffic, after which bandwidth gets limited. But so far, the limit does not seem to be enforced.
Store employees are usually unaware of prepaid data options, having been known to supply outright WRONG information (like internet plans not being availabe on Mobicarte) so don't expect prepaid data assistance from them.
Many different plans are available for unlimited calling, evening calling, evening data, etc. See their site for more information.
Default data rateEdit
- Internet Max: Unlimited 3G Speeds, excluding email at 9€.
- Email is available for 1€ extra per month.
- That is it; it's great.
- SIM card + 5€ credit = 7€ (currently 5€ extra credit if you buy online)
- Calls 0.50€ / min to mobile and landline
- SMS to Orange or to any France mobile number only 0.12€
- SMS to non-EU mobile number: 0.28€
- MMS 0.30€
- Data 0.50€ / minute (It cost you a fortune and will quickly suck your prepaid account dry.)
- Email 0.15€ / 10Kb
- GPS 0.15€ / 10Kb
- [Note: some of these prices might be slightly out of date. As of Oct 25, 2012, current prices can be seen--in French but somewhat decipherable--in the company's PDF booklet of all cell phone prices and services titled "les tarifs de l'offre mobile" at http://boutique.orange.fr/doc/contrat3741.pdf. The front cover indicates that this is valid for Oct 11, 2012 - Nov 21, 2012. Find the most recent version by putting the following search into Google, including the quotation marks: "Tarifs en vigueur" "de l'offre mobile" site:orange.fr and the latest pricing should come up. "Normal Pricing" is in the section "les offres prepayees" (which begins on page 4 for the aforementioned booklet) and all special plans are listed under "les bons plans des offres prepayees" (which begins on page 64 of the aforementioned booklet).]
- Unlimited internet 1 day 3€ (actually 22 hours from 2am to 12am - watch out for the 2hours in between)
- Unlimited internet all weekend 5€
- Unlimited internet 7 days 7€
- Unlimited internet Max, one month, 9€
- Unlimited e-mail (SMTP/POP/IMAP) 1 month 6€
- Unlimited calling to Orange mobiles and all landlines daytime (7h - 17h) 3€
- Unlimited calling to Orange mobiles and all landlines evening (21h - 24h) 3€
- Unlimited weekend 10€
- International (at least UK) 10MB for 1 day 5€
- "Duo Journee" for 3 Euros, gives 1 hr of calls and 15 SMS to French lines (9h - 21h)
- [Note: some of these prices might be slightly out of date, and some of these Special Plans may no longer be offered. As of Oct 25, 2012, current prices and Special Plans can be seen--in French but somewhat decipherable--in the company's PDF booklet of all cell phone prices and services titled "les tarifs de l'offre mobile" at http://boutique.orange.fr/doc/contrat3741.pdf. The front cover indicates that this is valid for Oct 11, 2012 - Nov 21, 2012. Find the most recent version by putting the following search into Google, including the quotation marks: "Tarifs en vigueur" "de l'offre mobile" site:orange.fr and the latest pricing should come up. "Normal Pricing" is in the section "les offres prepayees" (which begins on page 4 for the aforementioned booklet) and all Special Plans are listed under "les bons plans des offres prepayees" (which begins on page 64 of the aforementioned booklet).]
SIM and Mobicarte available in Orange stores and related vendors, and online. Generally more credit is included in the price if you buy online.
Data plans must be subscribed to via automated phone system by calling 220, online or #123# menu system. If you bought your SIM online, you are required to take your passport to an Orange store to record your details before being able to activate a data plan for the first time. This is a French legal requirement, and the plans should be available 24 hours after registering.
I was able to buy a Mobicart at a newspaper-stand in a rural town in France, in july 2012. The drawback of this was that I had to send a photocopy of my passport by (paper-)mail and that your sim-card is not activated until Orange has received this copy and has processed it. This processing took them over a week to complete! After this stupid slow start, it worked like a charm.
You can buy Orange prepaid mobicarte SIMs online with EUR15 of credit pre-loaded from http://mobipassport.com. The SIMs comes with detailed usage instructions and they will register it for you. It works overseas so you can test it before you depart (The #123# menu is free to use overseas), and you get your number before you depart.
If you would like to save yourself the hassle of dealing with Orange France then check out: www.dataroam.co.uk. They offer pre-paid data SIM cards from LeFrenchMobile and a 30 Day Data SIM card from Orange France with 3GB. Another option is to purchase the SIM and plan in a third party cell phone shop, such as Phone House, which has stores all over France, particularly heavy in large cities. (Check http://www.phonehouse.fr/ for store locations). They were able to sell me a SIM, copy my passport, get a number activated with the 1 week data plan, and have me out the door for 15 euros. They were also generally more helpful than Orange store employees. Note that Mobicarte sims are available from third party sellers on ebay, and the sellers will activate the sims and add data packages for you before you arrive so you're ready to go immediately with no hassles.
MobiCarte SIM card credits expire in 2 months if no recharge applied during the period. After registering your SIM for the first time and topping it up with credits, the SIM number will stay in operation for a year. You can check the expiration date online when you create an account, but you will probably also get an SMS stating the expiration date. Expiration of recharge credits depends on amount. 10eur electronic recharge should be activated (i.e. added to account) in 15 days since purchase.
ORANGE SIM A DEAD DUCK
I bought one of these in July 2012. Struggled in vain for four days. Went to the Orange Technical Support in Saint Quentin. Watched three of their "experts" struggle for two hours. No joy. If they can't make the thing work . . . .
- Mini SIM (2FF)
- Micro SIM (3FF) (iPhone 4, 4s and iPad)
Not allowed (But they dont seem to bother if you do) iPhone will NOT allow tethering, redirect to purchase page. I use PDAnet for tethering, works great and has done for over 5months working in France.
Note that as at 5 April 2013, tethering did not work on a Samsung Galaxy S3 on Orange France on a Mobicarte with Internet Max. Normal data worked fine, but they appear to be automatically blocking tethering somehow.
Domino 3G KeyEdit
As at: January 2013
Orange sells a portable 3G device, Huawey-made as far as I can tell. 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. Used it for a month and worked fine with 2 phones, 2 tablets and one ipod touch. I'd highly recommend this if you have more than one device, the pricing seems way better than French Connection, which seems to offer a similar deal (3G key) - with the exception that VOIP is banned on Orange but allowed on FC.
Cost: 45 euros for the device + 500MB valid for a month (which is plenty for email and such, as long as you remind the kids not to use Youtube ...). Both uploads and downloads count.
Recharge options with "let's go" cards (make sure you get the right one):
- 200MB valid 1 day: 3 euros
- 1GB valid 1 week: 10 euros
- 2GB valid 2 weeks: 20 euros
- The recharges explicitely prohibit VOIP, torrents and usenet.
- I had problems inputting the recharge number when ringing from my phone using a mobicarte, but went to a shop and it worked fine, maybe it was me doing typos.
Re-use: 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. The agency that sold me the device didn't mention this, and another agency I went to did not want to do it on the spot for me, so you may need to insist. Couldn't be bothered to get aggro with agency staff so I mailed the details. They didn't cancel mine so I guess my letter made it. Note that if you don't authenticate they suspend the account after 30 days, which is the limit of the 500MB anyway. Not sure if you can just buy a new "data" SIM card as stand-alone to put back in the device if you come back later.
Roaming: tried using it in Singapore on roaming as I had 1GB left to use, but couldn't get it to work, and the interface was not ideal to diagnose why. No idea if it'd work better in Europe, but rates outside France wouldn't allow for much use anyway I don't think.
This is a venture owned by SFR. The whole process is done online and they have good prices. http://www.joemobile.fr Joe Mobile offers start at 5 euros. You personnalise the offer by adding the amount of voice/data/… you want. The offers could be stop/pause/restarted/changed at anytime with immediate effect. The only way to pay is by credit card.S
Subscribtion is called "La carte". An activated SIM card is 9.90 euros (offer at 5€ at the time I write this or even at 0€ for the iPhone5), and the new "Recharge Internet Mobile 5 euros" gives you one week of free Internet access up to 100MB. Text and calls are charged separately. See their site for more information.
Some SFR stores have prepaid "top-up" terminals, from here, you can buy a €20-for-20-days pass, or a €24-for-20-days pass that includes an additional €10 of call and text credit. (Note that the card itself already contains a €5 credit, so all in all the €24 option gives you €15 of calling credit as far as I understant). Certain workers in SFR stores don't know about the availability of PAYG data for iPhones, even though their top-up terminals directly sell them. So if the worker seems to have a problem, just point them to the SFR website and navigate to the plan, or go to a store with a top-up terminal.
In order to activate these data passes, you should call the service line (costs call credit, or call from a landline) and tell them your code and to activate the data plan. This usually takes about an hour (actually the process itself took me about an hour, but only two days later did my line actually activate). Also, at least by some accounts the cellular internet connectivity is found to be problematic. Some discussion and possible solutions, including changing the APN settings, can be found on this discussion.
If you cannot speak French well enough, SFR have an English and Arab helpdesk which can only be used for SFR La Carte (Prepaid) help only. More information can be found at this webpage.
Default data rateEdit
In some - but not all - SFR stores. Generally not available at tabacs. Recharges available online, but the site requires an existing SIM card and a European (smart chip) credit card.
Standard SIM and Nano SIM
On their prepaid cards Bouygues Telecom offers free of charge POP3/IMAP access for most mail-providers, including gmail - see site , tab Internet Mobile. La liberté en mobilité: "Réception gratuite et illimitée de vos e-mails de votre messagerie Internet directement sur votre mobile en France métropolitaine. Liste des messageries compatibles et paramétrage sur www.bouyguestelecom.fr".
Only catch is that sending mails (SMTP) still costs, but that's quite fair trade. I've been using it for more than a year; it works perfectly fine.
In July 2011, Bouygues added a low price service, B&You. According to their Web site, https://www.b-and-you.fr/carte-prepayee/, this includes a pre-paid option at 5 cents per MB for data, 10 cents per minute for voice in France, 50 cents per minute to the US, 5 cents per SMS. You can recharge with tickets bought at a tabac. Still unknown are whether you can purchase a B&You SIM without a French bankcard, and whether you can use an existing Bouygues SIM with this new service.
Free Mobile offers contract free Data/SMS-MMS/Voice service. Very good prices. For those who will be staying for an extended time in france with a smartphone, the 20 Euros a month 3GB/Unlimited Voice - Unlimited to USA-UK and more / Unlimited SMS-MMS is very good. Tethering is allowed. The SIM comes ready for all phones/dongles (Micro + Mini). - A Nano SIM is on offer, although a special request must be made to get one. Either in-store or via phoning customer service.
Coverage was a problem at the early beginning but they quickly fixed it. They are still in the process of building their own network. But as Free Mobile use ORANGE network as a roaming network for data and voice, the service is exactly the same as the Orange's one and 3G speed is often reported to be faster than their competitors.
Free Mobile mobile is a Pay as You Go program, with automatic renewals, but no fines for canceling early, no activation fees, etc. All credit/debit cards, not limited to French issued ones, should function fine. (Automatic payment via a French bank account is also possible.)
[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.]
Brick and mortar locations can be found in Angers, Montpellier, Paris, Troyes and Bezons.