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FTTX

France stokes fiber's embers with extra €240M

France's fiber network buildout was given a reasonably solid shot in the arm this week as the country's government unveiled a stimulus package that is designed to relaunch the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though France has taken a backward step in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks, with infection rates rising to pre-lockdown levels, it has its eyes clearly set on the post-pandemic stage.

As part of its "France Relance" (France relaunch) strategy unveiled this week, the government said it would spend €100 billion ($118 billion) on various stimulus measures, with €240 million ($284 million) earmarked for fiber networks. This sum is in addition to the €280 million ($331 million) that has already been allocated to local authorities for fiber rollout.

Not a trailblazer, but no slouch
The aim is to accelerate deployment of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks and reach nationwide coverage by 2025, building on the France Très Haut Débit program launched in 2013. Two intermediate stages are already in place, with the aim of offering 8Mbit/s speeds to all residents by end-2020, and at least 30 Mbit/s by end-2022.

The 2025 target is a reasonably ambitious one, and will put pressure on operators Orange, Bouygues Telecom, Altice-owned SFR and Iliad's Free to step up current efforts.

While far from a laggard in European fiber rollout, France is not exactly leading the charge. According to data published by the FTTH Council Europe and IDATE in April, L'Hexagone, as France sometimes likes to call itself, is ranked 16th out of 35 countries in terms of FTTH and fiber to the building (FTTB) subscribers, with a 25.6% penetration rate as of September 2019.

However, the figures showed that France added the most subscribers in the period from September 2018 and 2019, with over 1.9 million new FTTH/B subscriptions.

According to France's regulator Arcep, at the end of 2019 a total of 18.3 premises were eligible to subscribe to a fiber access plan. This represents 4.8 million additional access lines deployed in a single year. A total of 7.1 million households had adopted fiber technology by the end of 2019 (+2.3 million year on year).

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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