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FT Wants Open Ducts

11:40 AM -- Orange (NYSE: FTE) has gallantly offered to the regulator Arcep a plan to provide wholesale access to its ducts for operators deploying fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in France. The catch is, of course, the operator wants the regulator to make everyone else do the same in an "I'll-open-mine-if-you-open-yours" kind of way.

The French incumbent claims that in the FTTH market it considers itself to be an alternative operator, and, therefore, needs open and fair access to ducts (or canards) in France. Specifically, it wants access to those under-the-street networks owned by French cable operators like Numericable-SFR and the local authorities.

A France Telecom spokeswoman points out that Neuf Cegetel Group (Euronext: NEUF) has 22,000 FTTH customers, while France Telecom has just 2,000, as if this were proof that the former French monopoly has the status of a new entrant or alternative operator in this market. (See Neuf Picks Redback, Redback Beats AlcaLu to French Deal, Free Unveils FTTH, Better Profits, and Parisians Plan EPON Network.)

"We don’t want to be the only one to deploy a very expensive network," says the spokeswoman. "We think that it's better to share the burden."

Indeed, but France Telecom doesn't have to take out another mortgage for what it's spending on FTTH in the near term. By the end of 2008, France Telecom plans to spend €270 million (US$384 million) to have one million homes passed and 150,000 FTTH customers.

France Telecom will finalize the wholesale offer to its ducts by the end of this year.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor à l'orange, Light Reading

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