THD92 is the largest Public-Private Partnership in fiber broadband deployment in Europe, and yesterday it passed a very significant milestone. THD92 is an open fiber access network that should ultimately connect all dwellings in the 92 département (roughly 600 000 if memory serves me correctly). It was strongly opposed by the French incumbent, who went all the way to Brussels to challenge the project under the State Aid rules, but it was ruled compliant by Brussels because (in a nutshell) the subsidy covered the costs of connecting areas that the private operators had no intention of connecting. Despite this win though, collaboration with established service providers had until now proven complicated.
So it’s indeed a significant event that Bouygues Telecom yesterday officialised its contract with Sequalum (the company that won the PPP bid in charge of deploying and reselling the access circuits) to serve customers over the fiber infrastructure. Bouygues is only the 4th national player in broadband in France, but its market share has been growing briskly. More importantly, it’s a national brand with great brand notoriety and a positive image.
It’s often said that the Achille’s Heel of open access fiber networks is the unwillingness of established brands to offer services over these networks. Without the weight of such brands, it’s hard to drive penetration, and the take-rates remain low, undermining the revenue base of the infrastructure venture. By signing this contract, Bouygues Telecom reinforces the solidity of the THD92 project, and offers itself a golden opportunity to benefit from first mover advantage.