After holding out due to its concerns over RATP’s high fees, Orange have finally signed on to bring its 3G and 4G services to Paris’ metro system. Bouygues and SFR accepted to join the effort last year, so with Orange finally coming on board, the vast majority (roughly 75%) of metro commuters will be covered by 2016. The obvious hold-out is Free.
Given that Paris metro riders have, up until now, only had 2G and very minimal 3G service, RATP made a call to task telecom network integrator Sogetrel with installing the necessary infrastructures in 170 metro stations and 60 RER stations by end 2015. The first lines coming on line in 2015 will be those with the most traffic, starting with line 1 and RERs A and B.
2016 may seem a long time when compared with cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, and San Francisco which already have solid metro connectivity. However, they are more the exception than the rule as very few cities actually offer data connectivity underground. For example, some such as Beijing or NYC are continuing to expand, others such as Montreal or Madrid are just getting started, and others, e.g. London, haven’t gotten started at all (to be fair, they are now offering free wifi at 120 station platforms via their partnership with Virgin). So while it turns out that it’s apparently quite difficult and very costly to bring 3G and 4G to underground metro systems, RATP and France’s telco giants are taking a big step in finally deciding to bite the bullet and bring connectivity to Paris metro commuters.