The Librem 5 in France, which modem?

Hello everybody,

Since the delivery of our beloved Librem 5 is only a matter of weeks (a more or less number of weeks …), I open this topic to discuss the choice of the ideal modem for French users: Gemalto PLS8-E or BroadMobi BM818-E1 ?

I am well aware that this subject will be very similar to those of other European countries, but I wonder if there are not specificities that would have escaped me compared to the French network

My references are mainly Chosing the right modem PLS8 vs BM818 andéquences_de_téléphonie_mobile_en_France

Here are my thoughts : the B28 frequency band seems to be missing on each of them and it is a low frequency band and therefore rather efficient in distance and through obstacles, my heart says Gemalto because it is manufactured by neighbors but my head says BroadMobi because more frequencies bands (maybe useless) and faster (Cat4 vs Cat3).

Hoping I’m not the only French user, do not hesitate to tell me what you think.

See you.

La même en français :

Bonjour tous le monde,

Etant donné que la livraison de notre bien-aimé Librem 5 n’est qu’une question de semaines (un nombre plus ou moins grand de semaines …), j’ouvre ce sujet pour discuter du choix du modem idéal pour les utilisateurs français: Gemalto PLS8-E ou BroadMobi BM818 -E1?

Je suis bien conscient que ce sujet sera très similaire à celui d’autres pays européens, mais je me demande s’il n’ya pas des spécificités qui m’auraient échappées par rapport au réseau français.

Mes références sont principalement Chosing the right modem PLS8 vs BM818 etéquences_de_téléphonie_mobile_en_France

Voici ce que je pense: la bande de fréquence B28 semble manquer à chacun d’eux et c’est une bande basse fréquence et donc plutôt efficaceen distance et à travers les obstacles, mon cœur dit Gemalto car il est fabriqué par des voisins, mais ma tête dit BroadMobi car plus de bandes de fréquences (peut-être inutiles) et plus rapide (Cat4 vs Cat3).

En espérant que je ne suis pas le seul utilisateur français, n’hésitez pas à me dire ce que vous en pensez.

A plus.


For teaming up: Promote Purism in France/Développer Purism en France

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Here is a quote from a support technician:

According to, the T1 variant has these bands:

  • FDD-LTE: B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B28/B66

  • TDD-LTE: B34/B38/B39/B40/B41(200M)

  • HSPA+/WCDMA: B1/B2/B4/B5/B8 CDMA:BC0

  • GSM/GPRS/EDGE: B2/B3/B5/B8


As we as young ones learned that 1+1 = 2 I firmly believe it is not difficult to understand (with just very little imagination) that Nord American 3GPP LTE bands B12(Block A)+B13(Block C)+B14(Block D)+B17(Block B) equals B28. Actually we know that the 700 MHz band is the set of frequencies between 698 and 806 MHz and that the frequencies in this band travel farther and pass through walls and other obstacles easier leading to a lower required number of towers to provide the same amount of coverage. Of course there are technical differences between all mentioned 700 MHz 3GPP LTE bands as uplink/downlink band (MHz), band width (MHz), duplex spacing (MHz) and band gap (MHz) but not to be subject of significance for my writing here. Blocks were initially implemented in Canada and USA but acceptance of Band 28 (initially implemented from APT) as a whole is more of the importance for the World communication and therefore important to be supported, sooner or later, from all modem manufacturers. In short, this is just about awareness of what’s going on in the World and not about insisting on small peaces of cake for myself. Trying to connect people with one modem will not work either yet understanding broader picture may help to sell more devices. If still difficult to understand myself: let me say there is one 700 MHz band named B28 and there is another (older type) of 700 MHz space divided into four commercial bands (as this way was in year 2012 probably self-explanatory way on how to rule individual powers within Nord America). IMHO, it is not about question where is to find 3GPP LTE B28, instead it is about the question where it is not to find B28 tower now or in the near future. Still, if this sounds speculative and not significant, anybody can freely do some research on his own for particular country or simply ignore this noise and use (as reference). I am certanly not wrong that by leading this way Australia, together with other APT countries, showed to all other sovereign countries which direction is to undertake when covering 700 MHz spectrum. Because when you are poor and maybe lonely, living or moving far away from any neighboring town, it’s only about comfort/certainty that you will reach someone needed, especially help (here purposely/only over LTE B28).

And, I am not sure if Gemalto is ready for voice support on B28 but there are few recently GCF/PTCRB certified (26-Jul-2019) Cinterion modems: ALAS5V-E + ALAS5V-W that are with B28 support and ALAS5V-CN + ALAS5V-US without, neither I know if this is something promising for potential Librem 5 customers but is obvious that something is changing in terms of flavor of supportive 3GPP LTE bands. And I can wait blindly for more info to come as I firmly believe it matters for all of us overseas, especially when I go to visit France again.

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I donn’t think choosing the T1 over the other EU models is a good idea. the T1 misses the B20 (800MHz) which is quiet important i think. Its directly above the B28 (700MHz) range. And has there for similar properties in range and penetration.

B20 use here
B28 use here

Yes there is more to come on the b28 as the frequencies became free most recently, but that also means its not 100% clear how they will be use. (5g, 4g, both, compatibility??)

Edit: corrcted 27 to 28 like @Loak pointed out correctly



By B27 you mean B28 ? because your link points to “Countries that use LTE B28 (700 APT)”


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

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

" * except Bouygues Télécom

Others Bands covered by modems but unused in metropolitan France:

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

Percentage of systems authorized by ANFR using this LTE-FDD band for a given provider:

LTE-FDD Band Orange SFR Bouygues Télécom Free
B1 2100MHz 15,8% (9 277) 13,7% (6 226) 8.9% (3 896) 0,0% (1)
B3 1800MHz 28,6% (16 799) 28,7% (13 075) 28,7% (12 505) 36,8% (15 894)
B7 2600MHz 18,1% (10 676) 16,7% (7 595) 16,1% (6 995) 36,3% (15 720)
B20 800MHz 35,8% (21 080) 40,4% (18 402) 41,7% (18 183) 0,1% (41)
B28 700MHz 1,7% (989) 0,5% (210) 4,6% (1 988) 26,8% (11 592)

Please, double check for mistakes.


You can also consider the coverage:

¹ Edit:
Add LTE-FDD B1 2100MHz band for Orange and SFR, source

² Edit:
Add Percentage of systems authorized by ANFR using this LTE-FDD band for a given provider. An authorized system is not necessarily in service. source (08/08/2019)

Edit (26/09/2019) : The Librem 5 in France, which modem?


About B28 700MHz (LTE-FDD) use in France:




Many thanks to everybody for your answers and specially @Torrone for his synthesis work.

Considering the post by @ramnasko (The Librem 5 in France, which modem?), B28 band is new and subject to change in time (4g, 5g …?), it seems to me that it is not to be considered in my choice criteria. B20 is as efficient as B28 and more often present on the territory. This is even more true if we look at our European neighbors who don’t use it at all but use B1 B3 B7 and B20.

My question is now over Cat4 and Cat3 characteristics. Will it be sensitive through the M2 bus (USB ?)
And an other thought : the reception level (in dB) is important too but it seems hard to find a comparison between PLS8-E and BM818-E1 with same antennas , same hardware …

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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.