Late last week, the French government finally kicked-off its highly anticipated “ultra high-speed internet’ (i.e. greater than 30Mb/s) project which centers on the extending fiber optic networking across all of France (ideally) by 2020. This 2020 timing is actually an objective that was set at the EU level. The government has selected Antoine Darodes, the currrent market regulation director for high-speed and ultra high-speed internet at ARCEP, to lead the project. Starting in early December, Darodes and his team will begin to consult key telecom stakeholders (e.g. telco operators, equipment makers, etc.) in order to draft a comprehensive project plan which will revealed in February 2013. At the moment, the coverage across France of ultra high-speed internet hovers round 21% with a penetration of only around 10%, so there is obviously substantial room to grow and improve. This chart by Idate, a leading telecommuncations research firm, illustrates the magnitude of the challenge the government faces in extending ultra high-speed (or even simply high-speed) coverage across France:
Hopefully, most of France won’t really have to wait until 2020 have access to much faster internet speeds. That’s a very long time. In addition, getting standard high-speed coverage is still a challenge for many internet users. As we reported last month, customers in areas claiming to have high-speed or ultra high-speed internet access are actually getting only 5.6Mb/s rather than the promised 10, 50 or 100Mb/s. If France can’t get up and running quickly on this, it may, in fact, fall quite a bit behind its peers in Europe and elsewhere. At the moment France is doing (relatively) well vs most of its counterparts in Europe on the measure of ‘theoretical’ high-speed internet penetration. Here’s to hoping France can keep up the momentum, get the actual work underway with little to no delays, and, perhaps, even beat its 2020 target.