France Telecom (Orange) yesterday announced an ambitious plan to invest around EUR2 billion (USD2.75 billion) between now and 2015 in fibre-optic deployments in highly populated areas of the country (i.e. as defined by the French telecommunications regulator Arcep as zone 1), as well as in other urban areas. The telco said the decision follows the recent clarification of the regulatory framework for the deployment of very high speed broadband networks. In its release, Orange said it is satisfied that the conditions are now in place for a resumption of its investment in fibre.
The French heavyweight already spends around EUR3 billion per annum in its networks and infrastructure to improve the quality and range of services. It said the new programme would not result in any ‘substantial change to the amount that it will invest in France’, but that a large proportion of the investment would continue to be allocated to the modernisation and maintenance of its networks. The statement went on to say the programme will hopefully benefit from the lessons learned during the group’s pre-deployment phase, which was carried out in conjunction with other operators and overseen by Arcep since 2007. As at 30 September 2009, Orange France had 33,000 customers subscribing to its optical fibre services.
In its predefined zone 1 areas, FT says deployment will now resume in the nine agglomerations already covered – Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Metz, Nantes, Nice and Toulouse – as well as in the Paris region. This deployment will also be extended from 2010 to include new cities such as Cannes, Montpellier, Orleans, Rennes, Strasbourg and Toulon. The telco also plans to invest in ‘zone 2’ (i.e. dense areas) and a test phase will be carried out in Chatou (Yvelines) and Oullins (Rhone) before wider deployment begins this year in Brest, Dijon, Le Havre, Pau, Reims and Valenciennes.
Orange says it is also open to different forms of co-investment with other operators in zone 2. Indeed, an agreement has been signed with rival carrier SFR (incl. neuf Cegetel) to conduct operational tests in Palaiseau and Bondy with a view to drawing up a co-investment contract. Discussions are also being finalised to extend this agreement to Iliad (Free) in another town, and this agreement may be opened up to other operators, it said. The former monopoly is also open to partnerships with local authorities in order to speed up the deployment of fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC), if regulatory conditions permit. Ultimately, Orange aims to be present in all regions of mainland France – or around 45 agglomerations – by 2012, then in all departments of mainland France and in three overseas departments by 2015.