Promise kept. During a conference organized this Tuesday for the presentation of a dedicated barometer produced by Infranum, representatives of fiber players and the authorities had much to congratulate themselves on: after having already broken all records for deployments in 2020 despite the crisis health, the sector should once again reach a level in 2021, while 6.2 million outlets should be deployed during the year.
The fiber players, represented by Infranum, have even allowed themselves the luxury of exceeding government objectives in this area, with forecasts of 87% of homes connected to fiber in 2022 instead of the 80% initially desired by the public authorities. . “If we had said that a few years ago, we would have been taken for sweet dreamers,” smiles Etienne Dugas, President of Infranum. And yet, France is today a European leader in fiber.
What to see there “a satisfaction of the actors of the sector, who can congratulate themselves to achieve what no other infrastructure project in France does not accomplish: to be in advance! », Rejoices the representative of the professionals of the sector.
Focus on RIPs
If the year 2020 had already seen the sector beat all connection records, with 5.8 million sockets installed, the current year looks even better. Unlike last year, it is on public initiative networks (RIP) that professionals in the sector have chosen to focus in 2021.
These networks, mainly located in rural areas, should therefore concentrate 60% of the connections made in 2020. Of the 6.2 million outlets expected in 2021, 3.6 million will be located in RIP zones, against 1.8 million in AMII zones. , 0.5 million in very dense areas and 0.4 million in AMEL areas.
For 2022, the sector expects this rate to slow down, with 5.8 million outlets deployed during this fiscal year, with a majority of outlets still installed in the RIP zone. Result of the races: if 40.6 million dwellings will have optical fiber in 2025, a “remainder to deploy” of the order of 6.5 million outlets to be installed by 2025 will still be there to arrive. to the completeness of the networks.
The hard part begins
And this is where the shoe pinches, underline the representatives of the sector, according to which “if there will then be” only “6.5 million sockets to be deployed in total by 2025, they will be the most arduous ”. “With an average cost of connection necessarily higher than the average cost of standard outlets in the RIP zone, the needs amount to billions of euros”, warn the latter, who stress that “the budget extension of 150 million euros, granted by the state in 2020 will therefore not be enough ”.
And to note that 2.1 million locals, i.e. the last 5%, will necessarily have to be financed through substantial public aid …
Worse still, 3% of this “remainder to be deployed” will not be able to be, due to technical and financial constraints, they still emphasize. “For these homes, it will necessarily be necessary to study other avenues, such as satellite internet,” says one on the side of Infranum, which however sees in the launch of new satellite offers – including that of Starlink – a increasingly credible alternative to achieve the objective of very high speed for all.
To achieve 100% fiber-based housing over the next decade, professionals in the sector are calling for the establishment of a universal fiber service. This could go through the “FANT (Digital Territorial Development Fund), equalization fund to ensure the life of the network, on the model of energy, created in 2009 but never increased”, we slip on the side of representatives of the sector and local elected officials.
THD for all, a road strewn with pitfalls
But other pitfalls can also be found in very high speed broadband for all. Starting with the quality of connections, which has been the subject of a real outcry since the start of the year, while the average failure rate of connections is currently between 20 and 25%. And if the representatives of the sector and the public authorities made commitments a few weeks ago to combat the spread of “noodle dishes” in civil engineering cabinets or within buildings, the result will not be immediate.
“There are many operational subjects having a direct impact on quality: simplification of the use of electricity poles (one million outlets concerned, 75% of which are in RIP zones), treatment of poorly listed addresses (three million in April 2021), effective implementation of Grace THD (generalization of a common protocol to ecosystem players), and of course the treatment of STOC mode, with the recent adoption of a “v2” framework contract and the very forthcoming implementation of d ‘a quality charter for subcontractors,’ reports Infranum.
Among the burning issues to manage for the sector is also that of employment. What to do with connection professionals when it is effective? The question should continue to arise in the years to come, especially since the sector recruited 9,700 new employees in 2020, instead of the 5,500 announced last year and plans, no longer 1,500 in 2021, but 5,500.
“Three points must concentrate our efforts: the copper-fiber transition, the improvement of the quality of the connections and the anticipation of the post-2021 period, in particular as regards employment”, conceded this Tuesday the secretary of Digital State Cédric O … while welcoming the work done so far, noting that “the figures are very good, but we must continue this collective work, because there are still challenges to be met”.