French operators agree to share fiber local loop

ARCEP, the French regulator, recently published on its website a set of documents and information about “sharing fiber to the home”. After about 18 months of investigation, trials, technical discussions and assessments, ARCEP concluded that one of the critical conditions for rapid deployment of fiber networks is a set of guidelines for operators, installers, owners and users to share the fiber local loop.

“To deploy a new local loop is an technical, economical and a competitive challenge for France,“ an ARCEP press release explains, “it will be an investment of billions of euros, with effects to be felt for many years”. Citing the results of a recent public consultation, ARCEP says that uncertainty remains because of extreme complexity and diversity of situations in deploying the fiber loop. ARCEP now calls for immediate action in respect of fair competition between operators and technology neutrality, according to the principles of competition required by European Commission and approved recently by the European Parliament in the first reading of the “Telecom Packages”.

A model of contract for “syndics”

Last summer, ARCEP asked operators to discuss the installation and sharing of fiber in the buildings. For technical and economic reasons, it was admitted that only one fiber will be installed by one operator in each apartment building, but the installer has to share it with others. The race to conclude agreements with the “syndics de co-proprieties” (apartment owners associations) among the three major operators (Orange, SFR and Free) erupted in Paris and several big cities in France to preempt buildings and set up specific contracts with the “syndic”. But under the pressure, most of the “syndics” said they will do nothing until the contractual obligations regarding the installation of the fiber in their buildings are uniform for all parties and publicly disclosed. Early October 2008, a controversial agreement was signed between SFR and Orange. Shortly thereafter Free, another broadband provider, objected, resulting in more discussions with ARCEP.

Key issue resolved between GPON and P2P Ethernet fiber infrastructures

The issue was the release of a new model of contract between operators and the “syndics”, which will act as a reference guide for all operators on the complexity, duties and legal consequences of fiber sharing. Under the new model, the installer will bear the cost of installing fiber in a building, but any other operator can obtain technical information to allow it to connect to that network from its “connecting point”. The discussions resolved a key issue regarding the differences between GPON architectures, endorsed by Orange, and Point to Point Ethernet, endorsed by Free. Free (or any other operator) will be allowed to put additional fiber in any building, at its own expense, even if it is not “the installer”. After the publication of the new model of contract for “syndics”, the CEO of Free issued a press release saying it is satisifed with the conditions for open competition. The press release also states that one can expect a formal agreement among the three operators soon.

France Telecom’s reluctance to share information about existing ducts

The ARCEP press release refers to a regulatory issue put in place last July opening access to France Telecom’s duct and chambers, on any part of its network. On 15 September 2008, France Telecom published an offer giving operators access to existing ducts or cabinets. France Telecom has to give information on its existing ducts and offer access at a price close to the cost. Therefore, ARCEP doesn’t mention in its release that the property of many France Telecom ducts is still controversial. Since France Telecom was deregulated in 1997, all ducts put in the ground by France Telecom should be owned by the municipality. But generally municipalities don’t know where the ducts are and France Telecom is very reluctant to disclose it. Many municipalities are still leaving the management and control of those ducts to France Telecom as they used to do before deregulation.

Comments

  1. Nashville Fiber Installer says

    We are a big fan of fiber and I cant wait for the day when they drop these fiber lines to ever house. I realized its a bit far off right not but it will soon become a reality. Thanks for the post!