Fiber deployment has slowed down for several quarters and Orange is not in vain. You would choose the easiest areas to connect first, despite falling behind in your commitments.
“A story of a lot of money,” says Avicca’s general delegate, Ariel Turpin. While the incumbent operator is still far from having consolidated 92% of medium-sized cities, which it should have done over two years according to his commitments to the Prime Minister in 2018, the count is far from being there.
According to the latest data from Arcep, only 89% of premises are connected and we have even observed a slowdown for several quarters. “We have to go back to 2014 to see such weak quarterly progress.” says the regulator. However, the historical operator had already been warned and then threatened with being assigned due to the urgency of the situation.
In fact, Orange must close the copper network by 2030 and this cannot be done without fiber being available where extinction is planned. In less dense areas patience is required and local communities are fed up. For example, the facility has been stopped since 2020 in the Sarreguemines agglomeration, in the Grand Est. Only half of the municipalities have fiber and Orange faces an obstacle: its desire to plant 1,300 poles is opposed by elected officials.
“Instead of using existing poles, they want new ones. Orange needs to relax its rules“, emphasizes Jean-Bernard Barthel, vice president of the agglomeration. Other cases are also ignored and, according to Ariel Turpin, “Orange does not fiber places that are too complicated to connect, such as residential areas or classified areas.“. He says the problem is financial for Orange: “A plug costs Orange about 500 euros, but a complex connection can cost up to 130,000 euros.” So it is difficult to achieve profitability without leaving the French on the bench.
The group, for its part, believes that this pace is due to a lack of resources: according to Nicolas Guérin, secretary general, 2,000 more subcontractors are needed. He also admits to having preferred sockets that are easier to implement: “First we made volume“. “If public authorities are not happy, we should not privatize“, he adds.
In response to criticism, he replies that it is necessary to” stop shouting saying it’s scandalous, it’s an achievement” and that France’s THD plan remains a success in France, ahead of other countries.