While the French government’s Very High Speed Plan provides for fiber for all in 2025, this measure has taken on the appearance of an impossible mission over the years. The fault of many failures in the field, such as undersized networks, sloppy installations and thousands of homes where the connection is not feasible.
This is one of the flagship promises of the Macron government. During the summer university of the Very High Speed Plan, Cédric O, the former Secretary of State in charge of Digital, made a commitment: 100% of French households will be equipped with optical fiber by 2025.
From a macro point of view, the deployment is going like a charm. France benefits from a considerable lead over its European neighbours, Germany and the United Kingdom in the lead, with 30 million premises connected and no less than 14.5 million subscribersthe majority at Orange.
A successful deployment… on paper
Only, the reality on the ground is very different as explained by our colleagues from Figaro. The fault of many failuresstarting with houses/buildings simply forgotten in the process, sloppy installations and congested networks unable to support additional connections.
“I paid 2000 euros for the fiber to travel the last meters of sidewalk between the street cabinet and my house on the Ile de Ré. Otherwise, I would still be waiting”, tells a user in the columns of the daily newspaper. The stories about hastily made connectionssuspended cables without any protection, and partial installations leaving houses or buildings on the side of the road are legion.
The numbers don’t lie either. In 2021, Arcep recorded 5,500 disputes related to optical fiber, a figure that is constantly rising and which now exceeds the number of disputes relating to ADSL. According to Phillipe Le Grand, president of Infranum, a business federation, between 15 to 20% of fiber connections fail.
More than 600,000 homes will not be able to have fiber
As said above, the problems are varied, and for hundreds of thousands of homes, civil engineering operations are necessary to achieve a connection. The digital transition investment department of Caisse des dépôts estimates that between 500,000 and 700,000 homes in France are in this situation. “The overall cost of the work needed to connect them could reach 3 to 4 billion euros”, explains Antoine Darodes, director of the investment department.
And contrary to what one might think, it’s not just isolated houses in the countryside or in the mountains. For these extreme cases, You’re wasting your breath and it will be necessary to opt for other solutions such as Starlink or other satellite internet alternatives. Nope, we are talking about buildings and houses located in very or moderately populated urban areas.
Very often the problem comes undersized networks unable to serve additional accommodation. For example, it is not uncommon for new residences in Ile-de-France to be deprived of fiber, lack of available capacity. This situation results in one of subscribers’ worst nightmares: the wild disconnection of their line in favor of a new client. “Every time one of my neighbors tells me that he subscribes to fiber, I tremble”, entrusts a user to Figaro.
The multiplication of actors causes chaos
Unsurprisingly, this widespread chaos is thehe result of several political decisions related to the allocation of tasks. In the metropolises, the four main operators install their fiber, but it is Orange which takes care of serving the floors of the buildings, while the others connect to the network. In moderately populated areas, Orange and SFR share the workload, 80/20.
The contracts signed with the French authorities oblige them to cover 100% of these areas, while Bouygues Telecom and SFR are content to lease lines. In rural areas, it is already more complicated. Operators have no control. This task falls to local authoritieswhich must appoint infrastructure operators such as Axione or Altitude to carry out the necessary work.
Also read: Optical fiber – the government announces aid of €300 to €600 per person to obtain very high speed
Only and to meet the ever-increasing demand, these companies subcontract the installations and connections… And these subcontractors in turn subcontract, who in turn subcontract, and so on. Fact, the number of actors is multiplying at high speedso much so that it’s sometimes impossible to know who to blame when worries come up.
In November 2021, Arcep demanded that Orange, Free, SFR and Bouygues improve the deployment of optical fiber, by more control over the technicians’ interventions and emphasizing their training. The goal is that the installations are better carried out. Furthermore, the regulator required that “the most degraded infrastructures” be repaired as soon as possible. Saving measures, on paper anyway. As a member of Arcep told Le Figaro, “we have no means of verifying that these commitments are kept”.
Source : Le Figaro