Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière discusses Orange’s fibre broadband strategy, the French marketplace and European regulation

Eurocomms.com: Which optical access technology are you most excited about currently and why?

MNJL: We do not believe in one single technology, whether it is VDSL or FTTH. We are convinced that in the coming years we will need a set of technologies to ensure the migration from ADSL to FTTH. There is no doubt for us that FTTH is the target, but there may be intermediate steps in some areas. And among the current developments, G.Fast is one of those we really believe in. It could fill in a gap in the portfolio.

Orange is focused on FTTH in France; what would you say are the most important lessons you have learned so far from deploying this technology?

We’ve had no real surprise related to the FTTH technology, its deployment or its adoption by our customers. The good news is that our initial deployments have proved to be the cornerstone for future evolutions. We started with 100 Mbps offers and upgraded to 200 and 500 Mbps very easily. This technology is really flexible and scalable, and allows us to be confident in the preparation of the next steps, for instance with the generations that will follow GPON.

Operators always talk about regulation holding their fibre broadband investments back. What changes would you like to see from a regulatory standpoint?

We call for an orientation of regulatory and competition authorities, toward supporting undertakings which take the risk of investing in fibre broadband infrastructure. Our expectations are threefold: not adding legal risk to business risk on the head of investing undertakings; create an environment that allows investing parties to enjoy a competitive benefit from their investment in the consumer market; and support access providers in their challenge to get internet giants to contribute to the investment cost of broadband infrastructure.

Aside from regulation, what is the biggest challenge you face with regard to deploying next gen broadband?

Regulation should not be a challenge but a framework to give confidence to the industry to invest and deploy the broadband access. One challenge is to design and deploy cost effective solutions in areas that are not so dense, in the areas where there is no business case for FTTH today. This challenge is not just about regulation but also about finding the right mix of technologies that may also include 4G for final distribution.

France is well below the EU average for next gen fixed broadband coverage and penetration. Do you anticipate that France will meet the Digital Agenda 2020 targets?

France’s institutions and market players have chosen the most future proof technology, FTTH with nearly infinite capacity, instead of hybrid solutions such as FTTC using VDSL, which is the technical solution adopted in most European countries.

Orange is committed to roll-out (or co-finance) FTTH in order to serve around 60 percent of the population. Our group is also ready to use FTTC with VDSL in areas where FTTH will not be delivered in the near future in order to provide very high speed where it is authorised.

What role do you see Orange's fibre network playing in a future where IoT is prevalent?

There are two aspects to this question. The first one concerns the impact of Internet of Things on our fibre networks and the answer is simple: IoT calls for deployment of fibre networks to deliver throughput, latency and reliability. But Orange also develops services, applications and APIs because, on top of the fibre connectivity, there is a need for enablers and frameworks to help the internet of things boom.

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