France: Record increase in FTTH adoption

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French network regulator Arcep’s scoreboard for the fixed broadband and superfast broadband market (rollouts and subscriptions) in France as of the end of September 2020 saw a record increase the rate of adoption for Fibre to the Home (FTTH) access, while deployments continued to advance at a very steady pace.

At the same time, Arcep has granted the status of ‘Fibre area’ (zone fibrée) to two territories in the Aisne (51 municipalities) and the Loire (23 municipalities), where the departments are deploying optical fibre Public Initiative Networks (PIN), which is a sign of the tremendous progress that FTTH is making in rural areas.

Finally, Arcep is enhancing its ‘Ma connexion internet’ map-based search engine devoted to fixed Internet access, and is once again calling on the sector’s stakeholders to contribute to the work it is doing to increase the accuracy of the information provided by the site.

Over the course of Q3 2020, the number of superfast broadband subscriptions (maximum download speed equal to or faster than 30 Mbit/s) increased yet again, this time by close to one million. The number of superfast subscriptions thus reached 13.6 million, or 45 per cent of all Internet access lines in France. Fifty per cent of all subscribers in France now have a superfast access line, which is up three points YoY.

All of this growth is as a result of an increase in the number of subscriptions to fibre to the home (FTTH) plans, which have risen by close to 3 million year on year, bringing the total to 9.2 million as of September 30th 2020. This technology now represents more than two-thirds of all superfast access subscriptions in France.

The accelerated growth rate for superfast access adoption is going hand in hand with a more rapid decrease in the number of broadband connections: -2.2 million YoY versus -1.8 million one year earlier. Representing 16.7 million subscriptions, broadband access lines nevertheless still account for the majority.

The total number of broadband and superfast broadband subscriptions stood at 30.3 million at the end of Q3 2020, which is 215,000 more than in the previous quarter and 685,000 more than the year before (+2.3 per cent YoY).

Over the course of Q3 2020, more than 1.4 million additional premises were passed for FTTH – which translates into a roughly 23 per cent increase year on year, making it the second strongest quarterly increase ever. Close to 1.9 million lines have been deployed since the start of 2020, and this despite the Covid-19 crisis.

As of September 30th 2020, 22.3 million premises were eligible to subscribe to an FTTH access service, or 33 per cent more than one year earlier.

The majority of the growth continues to be in those parts of the country where the Government has issued a call for investment letters of intent (‘zones AMII’ in French): close to 900,00 additional premises were rendered eligible during this past quarter, which reflects a tremendous push from operators.

The accelerated pace observed nationwide is not, however, found in very high-density areas where the rate of progress has been insufficient for several quarters straight.

The increased pace of FTTH rollouts in areas covered by public-initiative rollouts produced the second strongest quarter ever, and the second highest increase of all time, with more than 450,00 additional premises passed in Q3 2020.

In total, at the end of Q3 2020, 27.8 million households in France were able to subscribe to a superfast internet access service, all technologies combined, including 20.4 million households located outside of very high-density areas.

Arcep is responsible for monitoring operators Orange and SFR’s compliance with the obligations they have made in those parts of the country where the Government has issued a call for investment letters of intent (called “zones AMII” in French).

At the end of Q3 2020, around 72 per cent of the premises in the municipalities where Orange made rollout commitments, and 82 per cent of those where SFR has made commitments have been passed for fibre. The next scorecard, for Q4 2020, will provide an opportunity to obtain more accurate measure of the degree to which operators have met their targets.

Arcep is expanding the publication of this monitoring process to include the other legally-binding FTTH rollout commitments that certain operators have made to local authorities, as part of calls for expressions of local interest (‘zones AMEL’ in French).


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