Francoise-Benhamou-ARCEP-200Estimate for 100% ultra-high speed goes from € 20 billion to € 34.9 billion. Cour des Comptes, the French government auditor, has recommended a rethink of France's plan to bring very high speed to 80% and high speed to 100%. They estimate the cost will be much higher and the expected private investors are not interested. Instead, they call for "un « mix technologique »" 

Sebastian Soriano, chief of regulator ARCEP, warns of "rural desertification and the risk of decommissioning of certain territories, their inhabitants and their businesses." He recommends only modest changes to the plan, such as wholesale operators in rural areas. 

A major part of the difference in estimates may be a very probable lie in the official "100% plan." The U.S. Broadband planners calculated that 44/100ths of 1% were so hard to reach they blew the numbers sky high. When Blair Levin wanted to justify not recommending fiber, he included the extremes and had a huge figure to "prove" it was impossibly expensive.

In reality, the planners always assumed the last one or two percent would be served by satellite and the cost would have been much lower. I don't believe any major country is serious about a high speed connection beyond about ~98% and any 100% promise is a "politician's truth."  Deutsche Telekom is pulling the same trick to argue that fiber is impossible for most of Germany. Their estimates are much too high.

The Australian NBN is costing twice as much as original estimates, which in turn were twice as high as typical costs at major carriers like Verizon. Beyond the political rhetoric, it has always been a "mixed technology" network: Fiber to 93%, wireless to about 6% and a dedicated satellite to the remainder. I'm guessing that what Cour des Comptes is suggesting is similar, more reliance on satellite and wireless.

I can't analyze the true issues because neither provides enough detail. In addition, Orange/France Telecom has a large government holding that puts it under state control. What they would invest as a "private operator" thus is also a government decision. Soriano and all the principals here are part of the French establishment from the Écoles, which communicates privately as well as publicly.

Gigabit speeds in wireless will be practical in moderately dense areas within the decade through 5G millimeter wave. Grahame Lynch at COMMSDay has long argued that improved wireless would make some of the NBN obsolete. What I saw at Huawei's MBBF in Tokyo has me wondering as well. 5G mmWave has decent reach with good line of sight, Ted Rappaport has demonstrated. 5G Massive MIMO is even more promising for rural areas, especially as beamforming is perfected. 

If any readers know the inside story, please email me in confidence.

In Google translation, the  Cour des Comptes report and the ARCEP response. (Remember, these are all politicians.)

Fixed Networks of High and Very High Speed

In 2013, the State undertook to cover the entire territory within the framework of the "Very high-speed France Plan" in 10 years, reaching 100% of the 35 million residential and professional premises in 2022, of which 80 % Optical fiber to the subscriber. This deployment relies both on private operators and on the initiative and financing of local and regional authorities. For this first assessment, the Court and the regional audit chambers examined 47 territorial projects covering half of the population and one third of the territory. Financial jurisdictions estimate the total cost of the Plan, initially estimated at € 20 billion, at € 34.9 billion. In addition, if the intermediate hedging objective (50% in 2017) is achieved, the insufficiency of private co-investment jeopardizes the attainment of the 100% target in 2022. Financial jurisdictions therefore call for Objectives, to take better account of alternative technologies to fiber to the subscriber, in order to build a cheaper "technological mix" and to integrate a minimum broadband target for all. In general, the Plan focused on the construction of fixed infrastructures common to all publics, without considering the uses, whereas these are only one aspect of the digital transformatio

A complex technological and legal 
environment Delayed results, heavy commitments in the medium term 
Need for rationalization 

Complex technological and legal environment

France chose to privilege the construction of optical fiber networks to the subscriber because of their performance. Other solutions exist that would allow to bring high or even very high speed to satisfactory quality conditions.

To this technological component is added the legal dimension of the Community framework: public intervention can only be subsidiary to private intervention, which has led to a complex market organization in France. This involves public and private operators, but the incumbent, Orange, owns and operates a copper local loop network in a quasi-monopoly position and is the first investor in fiber optic networks, subscriber. Moreover, operators operate in geographical areas with evolving contours and are subject to specific obligations according to their competitive position.

In addition, the State has set quantified targets for very high-speed broadband, whereas local authority initiatives have pre-existed and have only been late in coordinating and financially supporting them.

Delayed results, heavy medium-term commitments

France lags behind in the deployment of ultra-fast broadband because of its geographical characteristics and less reuse of existing infrastructures. By June 2015, only 45% of households were covered by very high fixed broadband, compared to a European average of 71%, which gives France 26th out of 28.

The intermediate objective of covering 50% of the territory in very high speed from 2017 will be achieved. On the other hand, achieving the goal of 100% coverage of ultra-high speed homes fixed at 2022 and 80% of optical fiber seems to be compromised.

In addition, the € 20 billion of public and private investment announced will be de facto largely exceeded and the equipment program will take place over a much longer period. The absence of private co-financing for the construction of public initiative networks (only € 1 billion of the € 12 billion invested, for € 3 billion expected) requires local authorities to contribute around € 6.5 billion In 2022, much higher than expected. A dead end of financing of € 12 billion of public initiative networks is to be foreseen beyond this deadline.

A necessary rationalization

The financial jurisdictions note that there are deficiencies in program steering at the national level and that there are clear gaps in the organization of the construction and operation of the network infrastructure. The procedures for allocating government grants are cumbersome and complex, even though the central government teams are scattered and poorly endowed.

Cooperation between actors and the interoperability of information systems must be improved, and local public actors must give a regional dimension to their projects. Better steering and better budgetary control are also needed. Finally, the activity and commitments of operators in private initiative areas must be better controlled.


Financial jurisdictions make 11 recommendations to the State, the Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority (ARCEP), and to local and regional authorities.

In particular, they call for the completion and updating, in the light of the results achieved, of the objectives of the France Broadband Plan by introducing a minimum threshold of upward and downward flow, increasing the use of alternative technologies to fiber optics up to Subscribers by integrating a goal of digital penetration into enterprises and aligning them with the term of digital territorial master plans (2030).


Sebastian Soriano of ARCEP replies 

First President,

Arcep thanked the Court for the transmission of its draft thematic report and the opportunity
It is worth recalling once again that the deployment of very high-speed broadband is a challenge
First order for the future of our country. All the institutions of the Republic - like the Court here -
May, and should, as part of their statutory mission, contribute to the success of the
The indispensable modernization of our digital infrastructures. The Arcep, for what
Aims to play its full role with the conviction that the digital transformation of the country
Will be successful only if it meets the dual objectives of competitiveness and territorial cohesion and France
Should not be mistaken about the means to be mobilized in the long term.
Fiber is the industry's choice to meet changing market needs and needs
Over the past three years, data consumption has doubled or even tripled over the
(Whether the support is made of copper, fiber or coaxial cable). This progression occurs on all
Territories. Several factors may explain this strong growth. First, the number of Internet users per
Focus increases, which multiplies the simultaneous uses on the same connection. Then, the rate of equipment
Of households (computer, smartphone, tablet) has also advanced strongly. Finally, consumption of
Non-linear audiovisual media services grows very rapidly in consumer habits.
The need for offers with higher downward flows is increasingly felt. he
The same holds true for upstream flows. Reserved to companies only a few years ago, or
Certain very specific uses (especially online games), the democratization of storage on the
Personal data, as well as the development of teleworking, on-line administrative services,
E-health and e-education have in recent years increased the need for the general public to access
Higher and less asymmetrical.
In France, given the topology of the local copper loop - unsuitable for generalization
Very high bandwidth - and the limited territorial presence of coaxial cable networks, limited accessibility,
Only new fiber-to-the-home (FttH) networks , whose framework
Regulates the accessibility of third parties in passive form, are able to bring the very high speed
Necessary for these services, that is to say very high up and down rates (of 100 Mbit / s and more) and
Potentially symmetrical. More than a technology, the FttH is an infrastructure, to date the
Only allowing a real scalability in the time of the flows.

The main national operators, from 2006 onwards, have chosen to
Infrastructure to the subscriber, rather than the modernization of
Copper telephone network. These same operators undertook, in 2011, to finance or
Co-finance this new infrastructure on its own funds in several groups of municipalities
57% of the population, as well as a large part of enterprises and public administrations. The choice of
The FttH infrastructure is thus in the first place a decision of the industry.
The France Very Broadband plan aims to equip the country with its communications infrastructure
For decades to come
To this yardstick, the France Very High Debit plan materializes the Government's will to accompany
The ambition of private actors throughout the national territory, with pragmatism. The aim is to equip the
Of its communication infrastructure for decades to come. Arcep is of the view that these decisions
Appear to be as rational as they are coherent, especially since experience suggests that
Electronic communications, supply precedes demand and uses emerge when they become
France is not the only member of the European Union to have chosen
Scale deployment of FttH networks. This is also the case in Spain, Portugal and the
Taking the right measure of the imperative of territorial cohesion
In parallel with the deployments of FTTH networks over the vast majority of
Areas, due to the topology or distribution of the habitat, could, in
The absence of appropriate public policy, remain excluded in the medium term from access to very high-speed broadband. Such a
Situation would be dramatic in an increasingly digital society and should be avoided
Adapted approach on the part of the public authorities. As observed by the Court, fighting for inclusion
To fight against rural desertification and the risk of decommissioning of certain territories,
Their inhabitants and their businesses.
Arcep joins the Court when it refers to the utility of bringing in close
Sufficient throughput in all territories. Indeed, the objective of reducing the digital divide seems
To impose on each a digital safety net concomitant with the generalization
Of the very high throughput on the territory, and therefore in a dynamic way. Some communities have already
By ensuring, during their first deployment phase, a minimum
100% of households and businesses regardless of the technology used. This objective can not be achieved,
The best cost, only through a pragmatic use of the opportunities offered by different
Technologies, including the increase in the debit of existing fixed networks (both wired and
Terrestrial), satellite, or the use of mobile networks in a fixed situation. The Arcep fully
The role it should play in this regard, in particular through its work on the
Networks or terrestrial wireless networks consisting of complementing the toolbox mobilizable by the communities
Locally to increase the available flows locally.
At the same time, France must move quickly and with ambition to strengthen its
Competitiveness, in a constantly evolving European and international context
Ensure that, within a short timeframe, a sufficient minimum throughput is achieved in all territories
Should not, however, divert France from the goal of generalizing very high speed and deployment
Of the FTHT infrastructure in the long term, particularly in an ambitious European context.

Given the growing need for connectivity, and the need to increase
Competitiveness, the European Commission has just given its vision of
Digital infrastructure for the Union: a 'gigabit society', where the availability of
High capacity will allow widespread use as well as the development of products, services and
Applications within the digital single market. The second of the three strategic objectives of the
Connectivity for 2025 presented by the European Commission in September 2016 is that " all households
European, rural or urban, should have access to a connection offering a download speed of
Minus 100 Mbit / s that can be converted into a gigabit connection. " .
France can not avoid the ambitious policy of deploying
Of a new infrastructure guaranteeing the possibility of producing more and more
(From 100 Mbit / s to several gigabits) and symmetrical to term. The sums involved in the deployment of
The FTT infrastructure seem reasonable, a fortiori in view of the budgets mobilized for the
Construction of more traditional infrastructures.
In this context, national targets - which act as a driving force for
Which is in fact decentralized - 100% coverage in very high bandwidth in 2022, with
A large share of FTHE networks, should not be revised downwards.
Provide companies with the widespread deployment of fiber and its economies of scale
The very high throughput creates real opportunities for the economic fabric. The deployment of
The FttH infrastructure provides a unique opportunity to generalize fiber in businesses and
As deployment costs could be shared by a
Subscribers. It is only thanks to the economies of scale of a mass deployment that fiber
Can be democratized for companies of all sizes. Thus, during its strategic review,
The Authority has set itself the objective of creating a universal fiber optic network architecture,
Enabling the emergence of a mass fiber market for SMEs.
The Authority agrees with the Court's findings concerning the emergence of wholesale
To animate the business market. More generally, the Authority considers that the market for
Companies is, at present, insufficiently competitive. It considers that this situation is
Others related to the low number of operators able to offer wholesale offers on fiber. For
Foster greater competition in this activated wholesale market and thus make available multiple
Operators using these offerings a greater diversity of solutions, it seems important that new
Players can position themselves in the market for fiber-based wholesale offers based on offers
Passive. The Authority intends to do so.
Arcep is also considering the emergence of quality service offerings on the FttH infrastructure. he
Ensure that mass deployments of optical fiber are also able to
Specific needs of enterprises, in particular enhanced quality of service.
Following a public consultation in the summer of 2016, Arcep will draw the consequences
Guidelines for draft market analysis decisions to be adopted in the second half of the year
Strengthening the regional level will promote the industrialization of the deployment and
Commercialization of RIPs
The multiplicity of actors involved in deploying local loops requires industrialization
Support and develop expertise in the territories. Arcep wishes to support the
The Court's recommendation to group or network at regional level certain functions. This
In the short term, this is likely to bring better business prospects for

Operators on public initiative networks, but also to generate a better curve of experience and
To ensure greater effectiveness of the means implemented. Indeed, the institutional capacity to design
And to implement, over time, the policies for the digital development of the territories, the latter
Including the establishment but above all the regulation of relations with private partners in
Contracts would probably be strengthened. It is also appropriate for a detailed and dedicated follow-up
Performance of these networks, be they technical, financial, commercial, as well as
Monitoring of compliance with the public policy objectives initially set.
Organize transparency on deployment commitments of private operators
Arcep shares the Court's objective of improving the effectiveness of public planning policies
Of the territory by ensuring a stronger monitoring of the deployments carried out by the operators in the zones
Of private initiative, as defined by the Government. In this regard, Arcep plans to improve
Transparency of the deployments made by the operators throughout the territory, be they zones
Private or public initiative. This will be achieved by enriching the dashboards published by the
Arcep as part of its quarterly observatory of fixed network deployments. Work in this area
Senses are in progress.
In addition, Arcep is ready to participate with other government departments in updating
Conclusions of the call for expressions of investment intentions for 2011, in particular following the acquisition
Of SFR by Numericable and the reduction of the list of communes of very dense zones. Concerning this
Finally, Arcep notes that at the local level, operators have been able to specify in
Intentions to deploy at the communal level, irrespective of the status of the
Zoning and its evolution.
Finally, the Court emphasized that private operators are not bound by binding undertakings
Of deployment. Yet, even if their pace is not always up to the commitments made in 2011,
The deployments are advancing. Transparency requirements for deployment and deployment schedules
On their progress, as well as decentralized dialogue, appear to be
Favor of fiber-optic equipment in private initiative areas. The draft European Code of
Communications offers increased transparency on deployment intentions.
Avoiding inefficient infrastructure duplication
The Court questions the effectiveness of public investments made when networks of initiative
Deployed in the same area a few years later. Arcep joined the Court and deplores the
Some cases of duplication of public investment by private investment. In the cases referred to, limited to
Very limited geographical areas, these public investments were particularly
Generally of a different nature from subsequent private investments. This results in competition between
Public networks and private operators, and thus inefficiencies in the use of public resources. It is
Certain that in urban areas or more simply dense, the relevance of public investment must be
Be carefully analyzed in terms of the competitive intensity and consequently the likelihood of
A replicated investment. Nevertheless, in a context of freedom of establishment for
Networks, it is difficult for the sectoral regulator to make an assessment of the
Of the actors, a fortiori to prohibit them. For example, the regulatory framework defined by Arcep was designed
Facilitate the sharing of local loop infrastructure.
In very dense areas, almost all the premises are co-financed. The main operators
Have applied for permanent access rights to the network of each
Infrastructure operator.
In less densely private areas where deployments are accelerating, there is a
Rate of 66% on September 30, 2016, up 10 points compared to the first quarter of 2016.

In less dense areas of public initiative, deployments will increase as
Measure of the realization of France Very Very High Speed ​​networks. The commercialization of these networks
Should progress in parallel. The recent announcement of framework agreements between commercial operators and the
The parent company of a public initiative network operator is an encouraging signal that the
Actions of the local authorities, the Government and the Arcep to facilitate the
Operators must continue, but they are beginning to bear fruit.
The increasing pooling of networks is reflected in the progressive increase in the number of
FttH subscribers via a passive pooling service. As at September 30, 2016, the subscribers' share was
37% compared to 15% in the first quarter of 2013. This increase demonstrates the operators'
Offers to pool FTN networks and reflect the product of the efforts of the operators and the Authority
The last few years in favor of the provision of efficient access offers, from the point of view of
Technical, pricing or process.
Developing the full realization of security and resilience issues
The Court recommends that all necessary attention be given to the security of networks and their resilience
In the event of a natural disaster.
Digital security issues, which are primarily the responsibility of the National Security Agency
Information systems, are effectively co-operated between government departments and are also
Well identified and framed.
On the other hand, issues related to the resilience of electronic communications networks
Not enjoy the same dynamics today. However, these issues are crucial: the importance of
Increasing the number of digital technologies makes citizens, businesses and administrations increasingly dependent on
The reliability of networks.
Orange is organized to face these challenges and the footprint of its local loop network in
Copper, which covers virtually the entire territory, has considerable resources, and in particular
Personnel that can be mobilized beyond their usual area of ​​intervention in case of need. The
Multiplication of local networks, with a smaller geographical footprint, raises the question of
Industrial organization to be adopted by their managers to ensure the effectiveness of the repair of
Networks in the event of a disaster.
Arcep shares the Court's attention with regard to the security and resilience
Networks. Arcep calls for the development of monitoring and management
Particularly with regard to the multiplicity of actors involved in the deployment of local loops in
optical fiber. Arcep is ready to work with the relevant government departments to participate in a
Structure and formalize the needs related to the resilience
I beg you to believe, Mr President-in-Office, that my feelings are the best.
Sébastien SORIANO

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