Paris, 10 July 2014
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 by consensus on July 10, enabling VDSL2 to be introduced on all lines emanating from a cabinet in the Orange copper local loop. This opinion extends the authorised perimeter of use for this technology, which had been confined to only certain lines up until now.
Technology introduced into a singular environment in Europe
This opinion from the committee marks the conclusion of a thorough investigative procedure that began in 2011. Its goal was to enable the use of VDSL2 across the whole of France, which is home to a singular DSL access environment in Europe, namely unbundling, and this without disrupting existing DSL technologies. 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, albeit slower than the maximum theoretical speeds the technology can provide, due to a greater degree of cohabitation with other xDSL technologies.
Perimeter of use extended to all lines emanating from a cabinet in the Orange copper local loop
VDSL2 is a technology that can be applied to copper lines to achieve a significant increase in throughput compared to ADSL. Because of the technology's inherent physical restrictions, however, the gains in performance achieved through VDSL2 are confined to copper lines measuring less than 1.5 km (1). On longer lines, VDSL2 performances are equal to those supplied by ADSL2+.
In its first opinion, issued on 26 April 2013, and for technical reasons, the investigation into introducing VDSL2 focused solely on "direct supply" lines and lines attached to exchanges that were part of a network overhaul (e.g. those lines affected by sub-loop unbundling schemes attached to the Orange PRM (Point de Raccordement Mutualisé) shared access point solution. Subsequent to this opinion, and in light of operators' rollouts, in its observatory of wholesale electronic communications markets for Q1 2014, ARCEP estimated that around 2.7 million lines were eligible to supply superfast access via VDSL2. Because 80% of these lines are located in areas with no fibre or cable coverage, VDSL2 thus made an additional 2.1 million households in France eligible for superfast broadband - bringing the total at the end of the first quarter of 2014 to 11.4 million households.
In this new opinion, the committee of experts extends the authorised perimeter of use for VDSL2 to indirect distribution lines (23.3 million lines) or, ultimately, all of the lines running from an exchange on the Orange copper local loop (30.8 million lines). However, although this new perimeter includes 23.3 million lines, the impact on the number of additional lines eligible to supply superfast access will likely be smaller than the one observed when VDSL2 was first introduced on 1 October 2013 - as indirect distribution lines are, on average, longer than direct distribution ones.
As the following table shows, then, 14.5% of all copper lines could become eligible to supply superfast broadband thanks to the use of VDSL2, i.e. a 5.8% increase by permitting all lines in the Orange copper local loop to use this technique.
Impact of opening VDSL2 to all lines emanating from an exchange (taking account of operators' deployments in Q1 2014)
|% of lines eligible to supply superfast broadband via VDSL2||Following the opinion of 26 April 2013 |
(direct distribution and re-engineered cabinets)
|Following the opinion of 10 July 2014 |
(all lines emanating from an exchange/cabinet)
|Very high-density areas |
5.2 million lines
|Targeted rollout areas |
11.1 million lines
|Rest of France |
14.5 million lines
Percentage of lines in France affected by VDSL2 superfast broadband (2) (compared to total number of lines) according to speed and type of area.
The lines emanating from the exchanges/cabinets in the Orange local loop vary in length. As a result, for each of the categories listed in the above table, the percentage of lines that are eligible in a given locale will depend on the length of the lines attached to a given subscriber connection point.
National commercial launch in autumn 2014
Orange has one month from today - the day the expert committee opinion is being published - to incorporate VDSL2 into its wholesale offers. Once these new offers have been published, alternative operators will have an additional three months to prepare for the launch of VDSL2 in the rest of the country. If no setbacks occur that delay the final stages needed to introduce VDSL2, operators could begin to employ the technology nationwide by autumn 2014. When VDSL2 solutions actually become commercially available will then depend on each operator's chosen strategy.
(1) Prior to this, the expert committee had expressed its opinion on the signal loss threshold below which VDSL2 performances equalled ADSL2+: set at 23 dB, which corresponds to a line length of approximately 1.5 km.
(2) These estimates are based on a statistical analysis of the throughputs observed by operators on a sample of lines of varying length. It has been ascertained that, since direct distribution of VDSL2 was introduced on the copper local loop, the technology's performance can vary significantly on lines of a given length. For instance, a line with a signal loss of 8 dB (measuring around 500 m) makes it possible to achieve a throughput of more than 30 Mbps, with a probability of around 90%; a line with a signal loss of 14 dB (measuring around 1 km) makes it possible to achieve a throughput of more than 30 Mbps, with a probability of around 40%.