New Fiber Initiative in France?

Fr_dp According to Jean-Michel Soulier of Covage, a new initiative to make FTTH deployment in France a reality is emerging. Jean-Michel has posted a blog post entitled French Government's €750M for FTTH: is France going to be the next Australia? In this write-up, Jean-Michel explains that he has been consulted (as CEO of Covage (Axia) in France) to try and find the best vessel to make this seed money produce the end result.

Which is, I guess, the one slightly mysterious aspect of his post: what is the end result? Even though private deployments in France have been much slower to spread than was originally anticipated, there are three private players deploying, and it seems impossible to imagine any national level initiative not taking that into account. Is this initiative specifically for underserved areas or will it target the Tier 2 of the market which the operators are currently not addressing?

And of course, what of the operators themselves? Orange's fierce resistance to mutualised vertical deployment shows that the very idea of collaboration is anathema to the French incumbent, and of course, Orange has the most to lose, with a national copper network today. Any open access initiative will likely bring back the unemployment blackmail that has been used already: "if you do that, I will have to sack people". I'm really curious to see how it would be possible to get Orange on board for such an initiative… And of course the comparison with Australia here is relevant: look at what it took to get Telstra to the table.

Still, it's the first I hear of this initiative and I'll be following it closely to try and understand the articulation once the project is fleshed out (Jean-Michel's post clearly states that they are still at the "gathering of ideas" stage.)