France doles out €420m in FTTH aid with more to follow

Industry News

The French government will support fibre rollout in nearly a dozen tricky areas of the country to the tune of €420 million, it announced this week.

Further, an additional €150 million will be allocated this summer, taking the state’s total spend to €570 million.

The cash forms part of the France Relance project, a €100 billion post-Covid-19 stimulus plan designed to help the country get back on its feet. In total the government has allocated €908 million for access to telecoms infrastructure and digital technologies, noting that the impact of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital access for all.

The lion’s share of the €420 million goes to public initiative networks that have not yet secured funding in the Auvergne and Brittany, with projects led by the Auvergne digital agency and Megalis respectively together securing €273 million. However, projects in a further nine regions will also get a cut, with funding allocations ranging from €6.5 million to €46.3 million.

The additional €150 million that has not yet been allocated is earmarked for helping to overcome the difficulties of connecting to optical fibre and to ensure effective access to fibre for all, the government said, somewhat cryptically.

“With this new investment by the state and the commitment of the communities, the goal of spreading fibre throughout the territory is taking shape,” reads a canned statement from Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, Jacqueline Gourault, Minister of Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities, and Cedric O, Secretary of State for the Digital Economy.

Indeed, the government is pitching the €570 million package as a supplement to strengthen the France Tres Haut Debit Plan, a scheme rolled out eight years ago with the aim of furthering access to very high-speed connectivity in rural areas via public initiative networks. In total the state is spending €3.57 billion on the plan, with a view to ensuring nationwide fibre network coverage by 2025; that is, full fibre connectivity for all premises.

Naturally, there are also many highly-commercial areas of France when it comes to FTTH rollout, as evidenced by Bouygues Telecom’s latest five-year plan, published late last week. The telco’s ambition to become France’s second largest mobile operator within five years captured the most column inches, but its Ambition 2026 plan also included some lofty goals on fibre. Specifically, Bouygues Telecom aims to add an additional 3 million customers to its FTTH base during the scope of the plan as well, a target that is backed by its pledge to double FTTH network coverage to 35 million premises by 2026, up from around 17 million at the end of last year; it plans to add 10 million premises in the next two years alone.

Together the two announcements serve to illustrate France’s progress in the fibre race. With the commercial operators pushing strongly on rollout to more commercial areas and the government supporting infrastructure deployment in more difficult locations, the country stands a chance of meeting its 2025 target.

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