Monday, October 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm.

Data Roaming Report: Orange France

Carrier: Orange, which is France’s largest carrier.

I originally purchased my SIM card this past February at Orange’s République store in Paris, which was easy enough — the combination of my French and their English got me set up quickly, and I could pay for everything with a U.S. credit card. My SIM and number were still valid when I visited France this past week — most prepaid plans seem to keep your account valid for six months — so I only needed to top up, which is possible via Orange stores, many tabacs, some ATMs, and online (if you have a French bank card).

Price: €10 (~$13.50) for 500 MB of data. My “Mobicarte” nano-SIM cost €9.90 when I bought it earlier this year. You can also buy various combination packages of voice minutes, SMS, and data. For example, €20 gets you a month of unlimited calls, SMS/ MMS, and 150 MB of data. (In France, megabytes are abbreviated “Mo.”)

Just be aware that buying top-ups of straight Euros isn’t the same thing as buying these various packages. I accidentally bought a €15 top-up at a Monoprix store and discovered later that I couldn’t do anything useful with it.

Performance: Orange’s 3G network was the fastest that my Verizon iPhone 5 could access, and it was again a disappointment. Coverage in Paris was surprisingly flaky, especially indoors. Speeds were usually very slow, and I couldn’t sustain a VoIP call any time I tried. My battery life was terrible while roaming in France, and I suspect part of it has to do with Orange’s weak signal. I’m open to trying other French carriers in the future, but Orange still seems to be the easiest for prepaid data.

Value: At ~$2.70 per 100 MB, this was 90% cheaper than Verizon’s current international data roaming package. Unfortunately, my connection was so slow and unreliable that I was only able to use about 200 MB during the five days I was in Paris. Had I correctly topped up, I would have only spent €10 the whole time, and that would have been a great deal.

This information is current as of October 7, 2013. Evaluate your needs, consult carrier websites, and explore other options before purchasing.