Cost to Fiber 100% of France: 30 bn EUR

Fr_dp French consultancy Tactis has released an interesting report highlighting the deployment models and associated costs to fiber up France. This very interesting study (in French) has a few high level numbers that are worth pondering. More importantly, while there have been other cost estimates in the past, this one relies on an in-depth geomapping analysis that I don't think has ever been undertaken previously. The maps I've seen from Tactis certainly suggest that this is very fine detail modelling, much more so than anything I've seen previously. Anyway, here are the big numbers:

  • Covering 100% of France with FTTH would cost 30 bn EUR, 15 bn of which would be unlikely to be borne by private players.
  • Covering 80% of France with FTTH would cost 15 bn EUR, 6 bn of which would be unlikely to be borne by private players.
  • Covering 80% of France with FTTH and the remaining 20% with a mix of FTTN and 4G would cost 18bn EUR, 8 bn of which would be unlikely to be borne by private players.

It's important to stress that the costs above don't account for multiple network deployments to the same areas. Obviously, multiple competitive passive networks would increase that number proportionally to the areas where this network layer competition will occur. Furthermore the study stresses that the current ROI calculations are hindered by the continued competition of the copper network…

Interestingly (or perhaps ironically), our hyperpresident as the media like to call him has recently announced that France would have 100% coverage in very high speed service by 2025. He then promptly went on to announce yet another commission to examine the ways in this could be made to happen. Needless to say I have a hard time taking these announcements seriously anymore.

One solution is already well-known, and is highlighted in the Tactis report (although you have to read between the lines a little…): 500m. EUR a year set aside into a fund to deploy a single structurally separated national network, and the government buys the copper network off the incumbent to kill it gradually as the fiber network replaces it.

On paper it's a good solution. In practice I see as much chance of this happening as I do of the banking system actually undergoing the evident reforms it needs to the economy to stabilise… Which in turn means France is heading for an inefficient digitally divided reality in the mid-term. It seems like ambitious and intelligent governance died with the advent of public telephony…