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France Télécom plans fibre broadband to 10 million homes

Billion Euro investment to boost optical network

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France Télécom is ramping up its investment in deploying fibre to residential buildings, planning to spend €1 billion in France between this year and 2013, the operator said.

Today, the French incumbent has 66,300 customers accessing the Internet via fibre, and a total of 750,000 households have access to a fibre connection.

The build-out can accelerate thanks to clearer regulation and progress in gaining access to buildings, according to a spokesman at France Télécom. Connecting an apartment building via fibre typically involves siting some network termination equipment in the building. Getting permission from property owners and access to a building to complete that work takes about a year in France, he said.

In 2014 and 2015, the operator will spend about another €1 billion on the rollout, aiming to reach 10 million French households by 2015 and 15 million, or 60 percent of the market, by 2020, the operator said earlier this year.

In general, incumbent operators in Europe are investing more in fibre to the building. It is not a "mad dash", but controlled rollout, according to Oliver Johnson, CEO at market research company Point Topic.

France Télécom's goals for its home country are more ambitious than those of the European Commission, which as part of its European Digital Agenda wants to see 50 percent of European households with Internet access at a download speed of at least 100Mbps (bits per second) by 2020.

Fibre penetration in Europe is still low, less than 3 percent for the whole continent, according to Point Topic's data. Countries such as Lithuania, Estonia and Iceland have a much higher fibre penetration rate, thanks to heavy subsidies and the small size of those markets. However, most of the rest of Europe has a more market-led approach.

Many consumers don't yet feel they need a 100Mbps connection all to themselves. It will take another three to five years before demand really starts to take off, boosted by the availability of streaming video in high definition, Johnson said.



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