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Has France’s fibre optic network got problems even before completion?

Regulators are concerned at the number of complaints about connections, even if the country seems to be meeting its objective of access for all homes by 2025

Latest figures for the deployment of fibre optic in France show that 27 million households were able to connect by the end of last June Pic: Prapat Aowsakorn / Shutterstock

Alarm bells are ringing over the state of France’s fibre optic network before it has even been completed.

The country appears to be on course to meet its objective of 100% access to fibre optic cable for all homes by 2025, but authorities are concerned at the number of connection complaints.

Regulator Arcep gives as examples people who have suddenly been cut off (sometimes so neighbours can be connected), roadside cabins for fibre connections being damaged by vandals or by careless technicians (in some cases previously reported, doors were left open), and breakdowns which are not fixed quickly.

Arcep has published an action plan to try to ensure the system improves.

Senator Patrick Chaize, who chairs the Senate’s digital group, said he found it incredible that people moving from the old, slow ADSL system should experience so many problems with fibre optic, to the extent that some are asking to be reconnected to ADSL.

“How is it possible we can spoil what should be a historic moment like this?” he asked.

Arcep said one of the core problems was that service providers were using sub-contractors instead of doing work themselves. It has set up a platform where all operators will have to communicate problems and send in photos of each stage of an intervention, so any disconnections resulting from work on one cable can be traced back and fixed.

Meanwhile, service providers have been told to become less reliant on sub-contractors and to invest in training programmes to improve the skills of technicians and establish a system of certification.

Operators have been reminded they have a legal obligation to ensure the infrastructure is kept in good order. Arcep is defining what conditions need to be met for operators to claim that installing fibre optic is impossible, such as a lack of conduits on roads or bridges.

A guide for householders, explaining what they are entitled to and their duties to maintain access to their properties, is also being prepared.

In October, Arcep opened a formal administrative inquiry into XP Fibre, a subsidiary of telecoms giant Altice which also owns SFR. It aims to ensure it is meeting its obligations, including treating all clients equally, rather than favouring SFR ones.

Latest figures for the deployment of fibre optic show that 27 million households were able to connect by the end of last June.

This represents 66% of the government target for 80% of households to be able to connect by the end of 2022.

In 2025, it is hoped 100% connection will be realised.

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