Paris Plans FTTH Network

Paris follows in Amsterdam's footsteps with plans to launch a bidding process for a citywide fiber-to-the-home network

January 9, 2006

4 Min Read
Paris Plans FTTH Network

Telecom operators are to be given the chance to build a municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in Paris, according to the office of the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë.

Further details have not yet been made available, but the Mayor's office has issued a statement saying that carriers will be invited to take part in a bidding process to hook up "all of Paris" with high-bandwidth optical fiber connections. The statement also mentions the Mayor's support for the free provision of local telephony and basic Internet access services, especially for Parisians with low incomes.

The Mayor's office could not be reached for further comment.

The news comes only days after Amsterdam's City Council backed plans for the initial phase (40,000 homes) of an "open network" Municipal FTTH network in the Dutch capital which, if rolled out citywide, will connect about 420,000 homes and businesses and deliver 100 Mbit/s to all of Amsterdam's 700,000-plus population. (See Amsterdam Fires Up Muni Broadband and Amsterdam Commits to FTTH.)

An "open network" is one commissioned and owned by the city authorities, run by the city or a third party, and then made available to any service provider that wants to market its services to the customer base. This makes it easier for specialist services firms to pitch their wares to consumers, as they don't have to go through the lengthy and expensive process of applying for and managing rented access network capacity from incumbent operators.

Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Graham Finnie, who follows European broadband developments, says the news is of major significance. "This would be a much larger project than Amsterdam, potentially involving millions of homes," he says. "This news, on top of the Dutch project, should make every large city in Europe look at the potential of a municipal network, and consider whether they should be doing something similar...

"The companies that need to take the most notice are Europe's incumbent national operators. This should spur them on to look again at whether they need to revisit the whole fiber-to-the-home area," that many have deemed too costly to develop.

To date, only Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) has announced a major fiber access project, and those plans are coming under significant national and European-wide regulatory scrutiny. (See DT Flings Billions at Fiber Access and DT, TI Set to Spend Big on Broadband.)

In Paris's case, the incumbent is Orange (NYSE: FTE), which did not respond to calls seeking comment. FT would be expected to be involved in any bidding process initiated by the Mayor of Paris's office, as would specialist broadband operator Iliad (Euronext: ILD), Bouygues Telecom , Neuf Cegetel Group (Euronext: NEUF), and cable operator Noos .

Should the Amsterdam project go citywide, it's expected to cost up to €300 million (US$363 million) to construct. Given that the French capital's central metropolitan area has three times as many residents, back-of-the-envelope calculations put the cost of a Paris-wide FTTH network at up to €1 billion. ($1.2 billion).

Paris, though, is a sprawling metropolis. In addition to the 2.2 million people that live within the core city center, another 9 million people live in its immediate environs.

The prospect of a Paris-wide FTTH network should whet the appetite of many vendors, such as Ethernet equipment firm Atrica Inc. , which is already involved in some small French municipal FTTH projects, and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which is the principal equipment provider for the Amsterdam project. (See Amsterdam Gets Active With FTTH.)

Other vendors that will be keen to know more about the Parisian project will include home gateway manufacturers and set-top box suppliers.

And the FTTH Council Europe , a trade body promoting FTTH developments and comprising mainly telecom equipment vendors, is naturally pleased about the news. "As the new infrastructure has to support next generation broadband services we believe that the project will use new fibre infrastructure including FTTH to fulfill the objectives announced by the Major of Paris," comments Hartwig Tauber, president of the FTTH Council Europe in an email to Light Reading. "We welcome this progress, and the FTTH Council Europe will continue to demand an accelerated fibre deployment in Europe to enhance the quality of life of all EU citizens."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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