Paris, 22 May 2015
The expert committee on copper networks - an independent body whose members include the different operators, including the owner of the copper network, Orange, as well as equipment manufacturers - delivered a favourable opinion on 5 May that makes it possible to introduce VDSL2 in the last mile (aka the local loop) of copper networks, from the concentration point. This opinion marks the first concrete step towards the introduction of FTTdp (fibre to the distribution point) in operators' rollouts.
Investigation confined only to buildings up to now
This opinion from the committee marks the conclusion of a thorough investigative procedure that began in 2013. Its goal was to enable the use of VDSL2 from the concentration point, within a configuration that would allow operators to deploy activated equipment inside customer premises, coming from the concentration point higher up the network, without disrupting existing xDSL technologies running from the cabinet.
A great many stakeholders contributed to the various stages of the investigation: theoretical simulations, lab tests and trials on actual lines. And it was thanks to this work that the expert committee was able to identify a technical compromise enabling faster VDSL2 throughput, resulting from a greater degree of cohabitation with other xDSL technologies.
First concrete step towards introducing FTTdp in France
FTTdp is a superfast network architecture that consists of deploying optical fibre very close to the customer's premises and, contrary to the current arrangement used for FttH (fibre to the home) network rollouts, reuses the copper line in the last metres to connect the customer to the optical fibre. A DPU (1) connects the fibre to the existing copper wiring over which services are delivered to the subscriber. This box is powered by the subscriber's electrical network, over the last metres.
Aware that this architecture would raise a great many questions, ARCEP took a forward-looking approach and, in response to a request from operators, created a dedicated working group (2) in 2013 whose members include operators' representatives, local authority associations and the concerned federal government departments. One of the conclusions to emerge from these meetings is that the investigation into FTTdp must include a trial phase under actual conditions, before any large-scale rollout is performed, to be able to test the technical aspects of fibre to the distribution point, and to examine any of the questions that its operational implementation might raise. This working group also made it possible to reach a consensus over the relationship between FTTdp and FttH: stakeholders plan on using FTTdp as part of their current FttH rollouts, to remedy occasional and temporary difficulties they encounter when installing fibre in the customers' premises, rather than as part of a large-scale overhaul of the copper local loop. FTTdp could therefore be a way to improve the FttH networks' occupancy rates by providing a greater diversity of connection solutions in the customers' premises.
Today, the work performed by the expert committee has made it possible to have a better understanding of the technical aspects of introducing FTTdp inside customers' premises, and to examine the issues surrounding its actual implementation. To this end, ARCEP has begun discussing these issues with operators, before undertaking any large-scale deployment. This work could lead to a series of FTTdp trial rollouts in the coming months.
(1) Distribution Point Unit (active equipment used downstream from the concentration point)
The opinion of the expert committee (pdf - in French only)
The video of Catherine Mancini, Chairwoman of the expert commitee (in French only)