Being based in France, the French broadband market is inevitably one of the ones I know instinctively the best. I (and many others) have been saying for a while that the numerous announcements made around NGA in the last few months by incumbent Orange and competitive operators SFR and Free were a severe case of Fiber to the Press Release with little action besides.
Ironically, abroad I often hear references to the French market as a market that "is happening", and it's always difficult to stress that although I can't really prove my point right now, I think the French market is very far from having happened. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, at an event organised by French association AVICCA, a representant of the Sycabel (a trade association of cable and enclosure manufacturers) some numbers were presented that clearly highlight how stalled the situation is. If you speak French, you can find all the presentations shown at AVICCA here, and the Sycabel presentation here.
I just extracted one slide from that presentation to show you what I'm talking about. This represents on an index basis (with 2008 being the reference) how much FTTP cable is actually being sold to French NGA operators. It's plain to see that not only are the levels below those of 2008, but the trend is downward also.
Now one might argue that industrial cycles are such that you may purchase your fiber cable significantly ahead of actual deployment, or that different phases in the deployment require different amounts of cable, and that this might not be a true indicator of actual deployment in the field. That may explain the fluctuation to a certain extent, but considering the very gung ho announcements made by France Telecom in 2011 in particular, what cannot be explained is why there's no upwards trend at all!
One thing is for sure though: France certainly isn't a poster child for a successful FTTP deployment approach…