Posted on April 8, 2022 at 16:15Updated at 16:44 on April 8, 2022
This is a historic change in a very fast construction site, 10 years after its launch in France. For the first time, the number of fiber optic subscriptions has exceeded the number of ADSL subscriptions for older copper networks. According to the latest figures from telecommunications regulator Arcep, the curves crossed in the fourth quarter of 2021, with 14.5 million active fiber access and 14.4 million ADSL active access.
Progress is spectacular. Over 4 million additional fiber subscriptions have been recorded in a year. According to Laurede La Raudière, President of Arcep, it’s a “record.” And in six years, the number of subscriptions has increased seven-fold. On the contrary, ADSL continues to lose its position with 2.9 million subscriptions declining annually.
Very fast Rolls Royce
Arcep has something to celebrate. Despite the many quality issues that have hurt the image of the very fast Rolls-Royce (poor connections, customer disconnections, etc.), Fiber appeals to the French. There was an explosive increase in telecommuting, distance learning, and Netflix-type use in captivity. But for carriers who have invested billions of dollars to deploy these new networks and are now seeing them fill up, that’s the best news.
In recent years, an army of operators (especially Orange and SFR) and their subcontractors have stepped on accelerators to install these precious glass threads throughout France, even in the midst of the Covid crisis. Currently, 70% of the territory is covered. At current deployment rates, the site should be complete within two years.
Acceleration is predominantly in rural and medium-sized towns and now accounts for 92% of the effort. On the other hand, even if there are still poorly connected areas such as Lille and Marseille, deployment is starting to slow down in previously covered cities due to their high profitability.
Faced with this investment barrier, operators have sought to switch existing customers to fiber and attract as many new subscribers as possible. Orange, SFR, Bouygues, and Free have all launched new boxes that are faster but have significantly different price positions. SFR and Bouygues were particularly aggressive, with fiber offers of less than € 30 per month. On the contrary, Free and Orange tried to raise prices. The first is the Delta Box, and the second is the particularly new Livebox 6 announced this week …
This accelerated switch to fiber is also a precursor to the withdrawal of the orange copper network. The current operator has promised to turn off this infrastructure that 20 million French people used for ADSL and traditional landlines by 2030. But for the government and the community, there is no doubt about cutting copper wire that Fiber has not taken over.
Returning to carrier growth
This is the end of a cursed decade for carriers. In 2021, operator revenues increased for the first time since 2011, and the introduction of Free in the mobile market drastically reduced prices and reversed the sector as a whole. Overall, operators raised € 36.1 billion, an unprecedented 2.2% increase over the year, according to Arcep figures. The return to growth, already realized in the first nine months of this year, was confirmed in the previous quarter. Operators are especially benefiting from the fiber rush. After a decade of contraction, landline revenue began to increase again (+ 0.6%). Mobile revenue has also returned to growth since the beginning of 2021. With the resumption of overseas travel, operators will be able to regain roaming revenue even if they have not yet returned to their previous level of crisis. Smartphone sales (20% of sales) also increased (+ 0.7% in one year).