Paris, 28 September 2010
Article 109 of Law no. 2008-776 of 4 August 2008, known as the Law on modernising the economy (LME) and Article 32 of Law no. 2009-1572 of 17 December 2009 on bridging the digital divide, commonly known as the “Pintat Act”, each assign ARCEP the task of delivering a report to Parliament by summer 2010. The first concerns the effectiveness of ultra-fast broadband rollouts in France and ultra-fast broadband in rural areas, while the second concerns the technologies that are available for increasing access speeds and upgrading multiplexed lines.
Because these issues are so closely related, the Authority elected to produce a single report, entitled “The upgrade to ultra-fast broadband” (La montée vers le très haut débit ), which focuses on rural areas in particular. The purpose of the report is to identity the means that can be used to increase the access rates available in the regions of France, and to stimulate ultra-fast broadband rollouts in rural areas.
Submitted to the French Parliament and government on 24 September, the report was made public during a plenary meeting of GRACO – a discussion forum between ARCEP, local authorities and operators, which is chaired by the Authority – on 28 September 2010.
It includes background information on the history of network deployments around the globe, a status report on the technologies that can be used for increasing access rates, and an overview of the regulatory framework governing ultra-fast broadband. The report provides an inventory of the possible rollout scenarios and the available instruments, and describes the actions that have been taken or will need to be taken to implement the different scenarios.
Which scenarios and which instruments?
Among the scenarios listed, ARCEP believes that the most effective one involves deploying fibre as far into the regions as possible, and completing the connection with other technologies (increasing access speeds on the existing copper network, LTE, WiMAX) in those areas where it is not feasible, economically or for time-related reasons, to deploy fibre, while ensuring that the investments made in the equipment can be reused for FTTH.
Since the Law on modernising the economy was adopted two years ago, the main regulatory instruments and financial support schemes needed to kick-start rollouts in the country’s more sparsely populated areas have been put into place, particularly through the Law on bridging the digital divide and the national ultra-fast broadband programme. Senator Hervé Maurey has also led discussions on possible medium and long-term financial support measures.
Which actions to put them into effect?
The priority under current conditions is to put these instruments into place in an efficient manner to kick-start a sustainable momentum for the deployment of new ultra-fast broadband networks, through the following actions:
- all of the stakeholders – carriers, local authorities and the State – must work to increase the density of existing optical fibre collection networks, which will help extend the reach of optical fibre into the regions, and so enable ultra-fast broadband access on fixed and mobile networks;
- local authorities and the State must step up the pace on establishing their master plan and putting it into effect. From a broader perspective, they need to encourage interaction between local authorities and operators prior to rollouts, to be able to define the terms for hosting concentration points and for ensuring that public-initiative networks will have client operators. ARCEP is committed to ensuring that the work performed by GRACO contribute to the process;
- national financing made available by the federal government, as part of the national ultra-fast broadband programme, also needs to be mobilized quickly – to help back up the funding provided by private sector operators and local authorities;
- through the adoption and implementation of its decisions concerning the framework governing fibre rollouts nationwide, which are currently being finalised, ARCEP is working to stimulate a steady stream of investment, and a high degree of sharing;
ARCEP will take regional development objectives into account when setting the terms for the allocation of spectrum in the 800 MHz band for ultra high-speed mobile, which it will soon be submitting to the government;
- operators and regional authorities also have the option of employing alternative technologies, such as increasing access rates on the existing copper network, or cable and satellite networks. ARCEP is working in tandem with the players on defining the regulatory, operational and economic terms governing schemes for increasing access rates on the copper pair to serve as a complement to fibre rollouts, and this within a framework that maintains a state of healthy market competition.
Eliminating multiplexed lines
ARCEP has asked France Telecom to begin a programme aimed at making the lines supplied by the biggest multiplexers, which account for more than 70% of multiplexed lines, ADSL-capable by 2013. The Authority also believes that a substantial portion of the cost of eliminating the multiplexers should be factored into the cost of operating the copper local loop, since it falls under the heading of network maintenance and upgrade. France Telecom has accepted this request in principle. The method to be used will be defined before the end of 2010.