French regulator ARCEP gave guarded Gallic approval to the country's latest bunch of broadband stats: It thought the transition from broadband subscriptions to superfast broadband downlink speeds equal to or above 30 Mbit/s was going along at a "steady pace."
Consumer attraction to superfast broadband is almost entirely driven by Fiber-to-the-Home/Building (FTTH/B). During the three months to December 31, 2019, France mustered an additional 725,000 superfast broadband subscriptions, taking the total up to 11.4 million. Of that increase in superfast broadband newbies, FTTH/B accounted for a ginormous 97%.
As of December 31, 2019, the number of "end-to-end fibre access lines" read FTTH/B subscriptions totaled 7.1 million, an increase of 2.3 million over the course of the year. The full-fiber subscriber uptick was a much slower 1.5 million during 2018.
But it is steady as she goes as ARCEP pointed out rather than a consumer stampede to superfast broadband and full fiber. Over the course of 2019, France added 2.4 million superfast broadband subscriptions, up from 2 million additions in 2018.
The gradual pace of full-fiber expansion, which seems common among many countries, is unlikely to see France shoot up through the OECD rankings anytime soon.
Of the 37 countries covered by the latest OECD report, using stats from June 31, 2019, France occupied 23rd spot with 19.8% full-fiber penetration of broadband subscriptions. This is way off the pace set by Korea and Japan (full-fiber penetration rates of around 80%) but much better than the UK and Germany comparable economies to France which languish towards the bottom of the OECD chart with low single-digit penetration rates. (See OECD OMG... Same old full-fiber trends.)
On a roll
Reassuringly for France's full-fiber advocates, growth in passed homes with fiber is picking up a fair bit of speed. As of December 31, 18.4 million premises were eligible to subscribe to an FTTH access service, an impressive 36% jump from 12 months previously.
The majority of fiber build, said ARCEP, continues to be in those parts of the country where the government has issued operators a call for investment letters of intent in so-called "zones AMII," which have moderately densely populated areas.
It faces an uphill climb, but Viasat is exploring a plan to build 300 low-earth orbit satellites that could deliver low-latency broadband service and qualify for the US Rural Digital Opportunities Fund.
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