French regulator launches major new fibre broadband consultation

Created February 11, 2020
News and Business

As part of preparations for the next national cycle of fixed market analyses (2020 to 2023), French regulator Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes (ARCEP) is considering broadband sector changes, and has launched a new public consultative process. ARCEP is now embarking on a further stage of the review process of the regulation of French high and very high-speed fixed broadband markets.

As a preamble, ARCEP states that fibre, as a new infrastructure that will equip the entire French territory for the coming decades, constitutes the major challenge of this new regulatory cycle. The deployment of fibre optic networks is an unprecedented project in terms of its scale and also in its form, which combines operator investment, territorial initiatives and state solidarity.

Regulation plays a crucial role in ensuring the right incentives, and allowing the market to bring all its investment power to bear. ARCEP says its pro-investment action has thus played a real catalytic role in the market in recent years, with an increase, unique in Europe, of 40% in investment in four years. The purpose of the 2017 to 2020 regulatory cycle was to allow all operators to participate in the investment effort, where the incumbent operator Orange was easily the dominant force. This objective has now been achieved.

ARCEP says the challenge now is to draw the contours of a ‘France of fibre’, to create the conditions for a total substitution, in the long term, of the historic copper network by fibre.

Opportunities for companies are another major issue. The aim is to democratise fibre optics for SMEs, both by allowing cheaper offers and by diversifying the range of quality of service that can be offered. This encompasses the conditions for general access, as well as for high quality specific access. The mechanism will be a dynamic wholesale market of activated offers, which can rely on several suppliers and leads to a model of operator-only wholesale (known as ‘wholesale only’), for the benefit of a large ecosystem of business operators.

Finally, since fibre is the next benchmark infrastructure, it must meet certain common requirements, regardless of the operator deploying it. ARCEP intends in particular to impose quality of service guarantees for fibre on all operators, so that the technology keeps all its promises, everywhere in France, for all users

Asymmetric broadband

For this next step in the process of revising the regulation of the wholesale markets for broadband and very high-speed broadband, ARCEP is putting into public consultation four draft “asymmetric” decisions for analysis. Asymmetric in this context denotes obligations which are binding on any operator that exercises significant influence over the relevant market considered, in this case Orange. These obligations generally relate to:

  • The provision of access under non-discriminatory conditions
  • Transparency and publication of information concerning access
  • Quality of service
  • Tariff control
  • Cost accounting and accounting separation obligations.

The asymmetric decisions will cover:

  • The “4” market for specific business-specific offers
  • The “3b” market for generalist activated offers
  • The “3a” market for passive offers, and
  • A separate civil engineering market.

This public consultation is open until Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

The new market analysis decisions are scheduled for adoption in late 2020.

Symmetric FTTH

À l’occasion de ce 6 e cycle d’analyse de marché, l’Autorité met également en consultation publique un document visant à compléter la régulation « symétrique » de la fibre optique, s’appliquant à tous les opérateurs exploitant des réseaux en fibre optique jusqu’à l’abonné, pour répondre aux besoins nouveaux issus de l’accélération de la fibre, sans modifier l’équilibre général du cadre en place.On the occasion of this cycle of market analysis, the authority is also making public a document aiming to complete the “symmetrical” regulation of optical fibre, applying to all entities operating fibre optic networks to the subscriber (FTTH), to meet the new needs arising from fibre acceleration, without changing the overall balance of the framework in place.

After analysing the contributions to this public consultation, the draft market analysis decisions and the symmetrical draft decision of the regulatory framework for optical fibre will be submitted to a second public consultation by the end of the first half of 2020. They will then be forwarded to the Competition Authority for opinion, and then notified to the European Commission.

At the end of 2020, the revision process will be completed: the new decisions will be adopted. This will incorporate the pricing dimension, including that relating to copper pairs.

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This article was written
by John Williamson

John Williamson is a freelance telecommunications, IT and military communications journalist. He has also written for national and international media, and been a telecoms advisor to the World Bank.