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French Do Deal on FTTH

4:00 PM -- In a move that's likely to accelerate fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network construction in France, Orange (NYSE: FTE), Numericable-SFR , and SFR (which now owns Neuf Cegetel) have "signed an agreement setting out the conditions for sharing fibre optical cables in buildings installed by either of them."

These operators have, until now, had to put their aggressive FTTH rollout plans on hold while they sorted out access agreements with the help of regulator Arcep , and, as a result, France languishes in 13th place in the European FTTH ranking. (See Swedes Top Euro FTTH Ranking, FT Updates on FTTH, Neuf Makes Acquisitions Count, FT Fleshes Out FTTH , and Numericable Picks Juniper.)

Now, though, it should be full steam ahead. Except there's one significant player missing from this agreement -- Iliad (Euronext: ILD), which markets its services under its Free brand. (See Iliad Tempers Its FTTH Target.)

It's not happy with the current situation, and hasn't joined the new agreement. It wants a carrier collaboration that complies fully with ARCEP's recommendations for "multimode" deployments, which includes "the laying of additional fibres at the request of another operator and financed by the latter." (See Free Seeks FTTH Cooperation.)

Today's tripartite deal involves single fiber, or "single mode," deployments in existing and already planned rollout areas, though FT, SFR, and Numéricable are also planning some multimode rollouts in one area of Paris and in a "provincial town."

This leaves Iliad out in the cold. It'll be interesting to see if it will hold to its principles and put pressure on the regulator to take action, or bite the bullet and join its rivals.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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