More needs to be done to improve the quality of fibre optic networks in some parts of the country, despite progress being made, the French telecoms regulator Arcep has said.
At least 70% of France now has access to fibre and operators have a deadline of 2025 to connect the rest of the country.
Once the network is set up, companies, led by the big four of Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free, compete to connect users.
Their incentive is to convince households to sign up to their ‘box’ modems, usually for a year.
As of March 31, there were 19 million fibre optic subscribers in France, representing 59% of the total number of internet subscriptions.
However, connections have not always been smooth.
The best and worst network operators
Using data supplied by network operators between September 2022 and this spring, the regulator has produced a map showing areas where fibre connections are problematic – and named the network operators at fault.
Topping the ‘problem’ list are five networks operated by a company called Altitude.
Its Resoptic network, covering the Rives de Moselle in north-east France, had an unenviable 29.9% failure rate for clients trying to connect.
At the other end of the list, Orange dominates the best performers, with its Meuse network boasting a 0.8% failure rate.
Connecting some rural homes is too expensive
Arcep said rules introduced last year requiring operators to record, with photographs, details of every intervention had improved matters.
“Analysis of these reports by the infrastructure operator enables it to identify faults and require commercial providers to correct their mistakes,” it said.
Arcep also identified the 2% of networks where users face the most problems, informing operators that they must make plans to address them by the end of the year.
In addition, Arcep has set up a system that should make it easier for commercial operators to provide services to areas where fibre has been installed.
It is now realising that despite 70% of properties in France having access to fibre, most of the 30% remaining – and even some of the 70% – are remote rural homes where commercial operators say a connection is too much work or too expensive.
Long distance from junction box creates problem
Connexion reader Tim Orlick, who lives in Tarn-et-Garonne, said that although “check your eligibility” websites had suggested a fibre connection was possible, commercial providers told him the junction box was too far away at more than 500m.
The network provider, Octagon, said it could only move the junction box closer if Orange, the commercial provider, asked it to, but Orange has already decided that the distance is too far.
Similarly, parts of south Charente, originally promised fibre in 2017 as a priority because it was a zone blanche with poor mobile phone coverage and slow ADSL internet, has seen new rules imposed on who can be connected.
Charente Numerique, responsible for deploying the infrastructure, said that properties must be within 200m of a junction box and the connection should service at least five neighbouring homes, effectively ruling out many isolated properties.
Local mairies urge patience – the date of spring 2024 is now given for many connections.
Residents left to deal with ‘rat’s nest’ of cables
There is greater pressure to extend fibre connectivity, however, since Orange received government approval to remove old copper phone lines by 2030, although it says it will delay doing so in areas with fibre problems.
In its 2022 annual report, Arcep said the greatest number of complaints it received from the public were about the quality of fibre optic cable connections, especially from people being cut off when new connections are made.
Media reports have detailed connection cabinets left with a ‘rat’s nest’ of jumbled cables and some residents opening cabinets themselves to reconnect, rather than waiting weeks for operators.