Why ADSL broadband fees and phone deals may go up in France

The price of maintaining the old copper lines that are the backbone of the ADSL system is a 'real problem', says provider Orange

5 March 2021
MPs and government ministers have pressured Orange to improve upkeep but it says the 'dégroupage' fee is not enough to cover its costs, especially with fewer users on ADSL
By Connexion journalist

Users of ADSL broadband and phones could face rising prices because of a row over the cost of maintaining the old copper lines that are the backbone of the system.

Orange, formerly France Télécom, maintains the “legacy” copper wire network but the switch to fibre-optic cable, which gives much faster broadband and more services, means it is losing money to do so.

The system is used mainly by other service providers, who pay only a small dégroupage fee set by the government.

MPs and government ministers have pressured Orange to improve upkeep but it says the dégroupage fee is not enough to cover its costs, especially with fewer users on ADSL.

Orange managing director Stéphane Richard used the nomination of a new head of telecoms regulator Arcep to ask for more money.

At a press conference, he said: “If you think the copper network has to be operational everywhere, at 100%, with very short repair times when things go wrong, all over France, we will need several hundred million extra euros.

“This is the message I have sent to the new president of Arcep. We have a real problem with the price of dégroupage.”

Alternative operators pay Orange €9.65 a month per line towards copper maintenance costs but it wants €12.65.

This drew an immediate reaction from Free Mobile boss Xavier Niel. He told a separate event that dégroupage was extremely profitable for Orange.

“If it is costing Orange money, why not take that activity out of the group and into another company on the stock market so everyone can see the books?”

He said Free had been paying Orange for years and Orange had been making a profit but it “deliberately did not use this money to maintain the copper network.

“Now they are saying ‘Oh dear, it is not working, we need more money and we must increase prices’ when in reality they want to increase their profits from the system even more.”

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