The Librem 5 in France, which modem?

First one highly depends on your load. I personally don‘t think you will notice the difference for what i cosider normal smartphone usage. Which is for me mostly small data packets like messages website mails etc. The biggest thing i gonna download are long podcast or audiobooks of max 300MB and that is rare and i don‘t mind the extra 10sec download it might take. Especially as they start playing while download. Same goes for video content. Another bigger part will be software updates. But regularly done they are more on the small side for linux also. Also i do these mostly on wifi. So do you download big things on the go regulary?
I think it will be USB 2.0 which has 480mbits so this shouldn‘t be the bottleneck.
For the reception level and antenna design i have no real clue about this topic. But my rational here would be that the gemalto is the modem they designed the phone for and the BM818 is a latter added alternative. So i think if they did some optimization of antenna and so they probably did it already for the gemalto.
So i would definitely stick to the gemalto, as i see it as the default which might be the better supported one if there are any bugs ans hiccups.
So my general advice would be if you aren‘t sure the BM818 gives you the dealbreaking feuture stick to the gemalto.

But this is my personal impression and guessing.


I was spinally on the side of the Gemalto and you confirm it to me with all the reasons you described and with whom I totally agree.
I have the same use of a phone as you. Maybe this use will evolve with the use of “convergence” which could open new horizons …
All of this make sense, thank you very much to all.


How comes the BM818-E1 doesn’t support EGSM 900 and DCS 1800 in your post, although they are supposed to be working (Purism FAQ) ?

I’m no network expert (or even beginner) so it is a genuine question, I may have missed something of importance, since I would go for the MB818-E1 myself otherwise.


You are right!
I misunderstood the BM818-E1 official specs page. It’s wrote “GSM/GPRS/EDGE:B2/B3/B5/B8”.

B3 is 1800MHz band and B8 is the 900MHz one.

I will fix my table later.


So there’s no difference? The Librem5 can work in France?


Donc il n’y a pas de différence? Le librem5 marchera en France?
Nous aussi en France nous sommes intéressés parce ce smartphone, j’en ai parlé à quelques uns de mes amis.

The two modems cover the same bands for all French operators, but the broadmobi also covers more bands that can be used abroad. I will modify the table to represent this.
It is better to avoid the operator Free mobile, because 27% of current 4G antennas are on the B28 band which is not covered by these two modems.

Les deux modems couvrent les mêmes bandes pour tous les opérateur français, mais le broadmobi couvrent aussi plus de bandes qui peuvent servir à l’étranger. Je vais modifier le tableau pour représenter cela.
Il vaut mieux éviter l’opérateur Free mobile, car 27% des antennes 4G actuelles sont sur la bande B28 qui n’est pas couverte par ces deux modem.

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Hi there,

So I’m going for Germalto.
I’d like to change my phone operator and I understood that, in any case, Free mobile is rather to be avoided.
Now, if the question is okay, I’d like to know which one of Orange or Bouygues would be the best option.

I’m doing the best I can to understand the technicalities, but please note that I’m not an expert or anything.

Update with 11/2020 data:

Bands used in metropolitan France by Orange, SFR, Bouygues Télécom and Free:

Standard Frequency/Band PLS8-E BM818-E1 BM818-T1
DCS* 1800MHz X X X
B8 900MHz X X X
LTE-FDD B1 2100MHz¹ X X X
B3 1800MHz X X X
B7 2600MHz X X X
B20 800MHz X X
B28 700MHz X

" * except Bouygues Télécom

Others Bands covered by modems but unused in metropolitan France:

Standard Frequency/Band PLS8-E BM818-E1 BM818-T1
PCS 1900MHz X X
B3 1800MHz X
B5 850MHz X X
LTE-FDD B2 1900MHz X X
B5 850MHz X X
B8 900MHz X X X
B66 1700MHz X
TDD-LTE B38 2600MHz X X
B39 1900MHz X
B40 2300MHz X X
B41 2500MHz X X

Percentage of systems in service using this LTE-FDD band for a given provider:

LTE-FDD Band Orange SFR Bouygues Télécom Free
B1 2100MHz 18,1% (12 025) 14,6% (7 039) 8,6% (3 761) 0% (0)
B3 1800MHz 27,1% (18 011) 26,7% (12 891) 28,2% (12 337) 32,6% (15 779)
B7 2600MHz 16,5% (10 952) 16,1% (7 778) 14,6% (6 381) 31,6% (15 266)
B20 800MHz 34,2% (22 762) 41,3% (19 965) 44,1% (19 249) 0% (0)
B28 700MHz 4,1% (2 710) 1,4% (676) 4,5% (1 957) 35,6% (17 301)

Please, double check for mistakes.

Same as before


French then english

Merci Torrone pour toute ces infos technique très utiles !

Voici, mon résumé pour le choix du modem pour la France

Si vous avez un abonnement Orange, SFR, Bouygues : BM818-E1

Le modem PLS8-E couvre autant de fréquence utiles en France que le BM818-E1, sauf que BM818-E1 gère plus de fréquences non utilisé en France, ce qui pourra être utile en cas de voyages ou changements techniques des opérateurs

Si vous avez un abonnement Free : BM818-T1

Ce modem gère la fréquence (B28 700Mhz) utilisée à + de 30% par la 4G Free, BM818-E1 ne gère pas cette fréquence
Attention: Si vous comptez changer d’opérateur, le T1 n’est pas adapté pour la 4G des autres opérateurs, car il ne gère pas la fréquence B20-800Mhz utilisé a + de 30% et 40% par les autres opérateurs

Si vous ne voulez pas être limité dans votre choix d’opérateur, il faudra donc prendre les 2 BM818 E1 et T1 :wink:

Thanks Torrone for all those usefull technicals informations !

Here is my summary for the modem choice in France

If your carrier is Orange, SFR, Bouygues : BM818-E1

The PLS8-E modem do covert as many frequencies as the BM818-E1 usefull in France, but BM818-E1 covert more frequencies unused in France, which could be usefull in case of travel or technical changes from carriers

If your carrier is Free : BM818-T1

This modem covert the frequency (B28 700Mhz) used by more than 30% by Free for 4G, BM818-E1 does not cover this frequency
Be aware, if you want to change your carrier, T1 is not adapted for the 4G of other carriers, because it doesn’t covert the B20-800Mhz frequency used by more than 30% and 40% by others carriers

If you don’t want to be limited in your carrier choice, you want to get both BM818 E1 and T1 :wink:

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Je rajouterais deux éléments à prendre en compte :

  • La bande B28 est très peu utilisée en europe en dehors de la France (un peu en Finlande, Norvège et Allemagne), à l’inverse de la bande B20
  • Orange et Free préparent un accord de mutualisation des équipements pour la 5G. Il faudra voir si ça a un impact sur l’affectation des bandes 4G.

Un article pour relativiser, beaucoup de smartphones utilisés en France n’exploitent pas ces 5 fréquences LTE :


Un très grand merci à vous deux, cela m’aide énormément que vous nous mâchiez le travail quant au choix du modem.

Hi all,

Maybe another element differentiating between the 2 modems :
PSL8 : LTE Cat 3

  • Peak Rate Download : 102 Mbit/s
  • Peak Rate Upload : 51 Mbit/s

BM818 : LTE Cat 4

  • Peak Rate Download : 150 Mbit/s
  • Peak Rate Upload : 51 Mbit/s

~50% faster with BM818


Well, um, assuming that your mobile internet service can get anywhere near 100 Mbit/s in the first place.

Let’s assume that you want to own and use your Librem 5 for many years and in the course of those years your MNO is going to upgrade the 4G service to provider faster download speeds - and you are close enough to the tower to get those faster speeds.


also probably less-open and more energy consuming (i don’t know by how much though)
Orange is one of the leading carriers in my country. best lower-frequency coverage among all the competitors …

i’ve noticed that the cheapest plans often involve using the bigger competition frequencies together with some limitations … i always orient myself based on minimum and average coverage/speed not maximum since that is mostly metropolitan most of the time. if rural areas are not thoroughly supported then it’s crap …

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Thanks a lot for all this info, I first got aware of this when you wrote about it here and now my time has come to finally pick a modem, guess I’ll be picking E1 AND T1 as I’m on Free Mobile =)

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The date when I’ll receive the e-mail in not very closed for me.
As my mobile operator is Free too, I’m interrested in your feedback when you will have tested T1 on B28 (700MHz).

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that will depend on the carrier, orange for example requires band 28 which is in the T1 modem. Others work just fine with the E1 modem.

You can use this:

To check the bands your carrier in France uses. And then compare with this:

This thread is very useful, but it seems to contain contradicting information. Is the information on the Purism homepage up-to-date or not?

But honestly, I wasn’t expecting having to do this kind of research before buying a smartphone. My expectation is that such a device works with all the carriers in the country that it is sold to. I certainly don’t want to be limited in my choice of a carrier, which I will most probably not decide on before I have the phone in hand, and which I may also want to change in the course of time.

So is there a chance that we get an official recommendation which modem to use per country, or is it left to ourselves to take the risk not being able to use it anymore one day because we chose the wrong carrier?

They selected existing variants of modems that could work in the L5, and that could provide the most coverage for any given region (Europe, North America, Asia, etc.) and a wide assortment of carriers in those regions. (The T1 only became available fairly late in this process, by the way, so it now provides an additional option for those that need its set of frequencies.)

Not even “regular” smartphones come with every frequency that works on every carrier in a country.


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You can order a second modem separately, or order two modems at the time of getting the phone delivered, and change the modem when you need to.

It is apparently not recommended to change the modem routinely (e.g. every day or every month would be bad) however if you change carrier every few years, there should be no problem changing modem every few years.

I think everyone agrees that if you could just buy one modem that covered all 4G bands globally that would be simpler for everybody. The beauty of a user-replaceable modem is that if such a modem appears on the market in the future, you can buy it and install it.

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