Is France Struggling to Live Up to Early FTTH Promise?
The number of subscribers to very high-speed broadband services in France exceeded 5 million for the first time by the end of September 2016, but the country's telecoms regulator said the pace of migration to fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services has struggled to take off in recent quarters.
In its fixed broadband market report for the third quarter of 2016, Arcep said the number of subscribers to broadband services with speeds equal to or greater than 30 Mbit/s increased by 290,000 on a quarterly basis to reach 5.1 million.
Of that number, subscribers to services equal to or above 100 Mbit/s reached 3.15 million -- up from 2.9 million in the second quarter of this year. FTTH services accounted for 1.93 million subscribers and high-speed cable 1.22 million.
Although FTTH subscriptions in Q3 were 52% higher than a year previously, ARCEP appeared disappointed that the number of new quarterly subscriptions has remained at around 160,000 for over a year. In Q3 FTTH subscriptions increased by 165,000 during the quarter and now account for 28% of the total households that are eligible for FTTH services.
ARCEP did not offer any explanations as to why FTTH subscriber growth has proved to be slower than hoped during 2016, but the pace of rollouts also seems to have slowed in recent quarters. For example, 6.95 million households are now eligible for FTTH -- up 39% in a year but only 7% higher on a quarterly basis. That compares to a 12% quarterly increase in Q4 2015, for example. Of the total FTTH households in Q3, just over 3 million are located outside very densely populated areas, with 954,000 served by public-initiative networks (PINs).
The French market certainly now lags behind a number of other European countries in terms of FTTH household penetration. In February 2016, a report from the FTTH Council Europe put France in 21st place out of a ranking of 29 markets in Europe.
A recent report from UBB2020 also shed some light on how each of France's four main operators are performing in the FTTH stakes, with Orange and Bouygues Telecom clearly setting the pace here in the recent quarter. Iliad has yet to break out separate FTTH figures, while the increase in Numericable-SFR's FTTH subscribers was cancelled out by ADSL customer losses. (See France's Iliad Gets a Broadband Trouncing.)
The latter trend is reflected in ARCEP's figures for the market as a whole. Overall, the number of high-speed and very high-speed fixed broadband subscriptions reached 27.4 million, a net increase of 225,000 subscriptions during the third quarter. However, subscriptions to services below 30 Mbit/s fell by 65,000 to 22.4 million by the end of September because of a decline in ADSL take-up.
— Anne Morris, Associate Editor, UBB2020
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