After two experiments aimed at testing the end of the copper network in France, Orange is preparing to apply its closure plan on a larger scale. But its execution will take years.
Practical work for Orange will soon begin as part of the closure plan for its copper network, on which ADSL Internet access is based. The incumbent, which in December 2019 expressed its willingness to withdraw from the copper network, to switch to a fiber optic infrastructure, wants to leave next year.
And in this context, the operator is already selecting the municipalities that will be the first to experience the closure of the local copper ring, that is the portion of the network between the telephone line of the Internet user and the local exchange. The end date for this first batch would be very gradual, with several milestones to the end.
A move that affects 42 million premises
In a document sent to the telecommunications regulator (Arcep) on 29 July 2022, Orange provided a provisional timetable, which organizes this transition until the end of 2030. The plan has four phases (announcement of the commercial end, then the termination the offer is effective, followed by two similar passages, this time on the technical part).
This document, broadcast during the public consultation on this shutdown of its copper network, envisages a move that would affect nearly 42 million premises across the country, based on the regulator’s estimates in one of its 2021 observatories. precisely in 2025 that the Orange plan must take off.
Orange has already carried out a first experiment with the closure of the network to follow between 2020 and 2021, on a set estimated at 700 locations. A second trial has been underway since mid-2021 and will end on January 31, 2023, with the technical closure of the network. This time around, the sample covers around 15,000 premises.
The passage of the network is taking place in parallel with the increase in optical fiber power in the country. According to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s Observatory, there were more than 15.4 million premises with end-to-end fiber access in the first quarter of 2022. As for DSL offerings, they fell below the bar of 11.4 million subscriptions.
The deployment of the optical fiber is organized through the France Very High Speed plan, which aims to connect the entire country with this type of link by 2025. But in the face of the possible delays of this vast project and the persistence of copper links in some points, Orange’s plan to close this network is proceeding according to a parallel program, which will last until 2030.
Maintain copper network maintenance despite everything
Furthermore, Arcep recalls during a progress report, Orange needs to show flexibility in the application of its plan, and make it evolve ” according to the feedback of the first closing zones “. After the second experiment at the end of 2023, a first batch of 170,000 housing units will have to cross it, for closure between November 2022 (commercial) and November 2023 (technical).
Despite the demise of the copper network, Orange has an obligation to continue to maintain and optimize it. Obviously a paradoxical situation for the group: it has to deal with a network that will be abandoned in the long term, while, like the other operators, it mounts the optical fiber. But this is the legacy of its status as an incumbent.
At the time, the regulator also recalled that the copper network, even though its use is declining, ” continues to welcome the majority of users and its quality of service remains a structural problem, especially in areas without fiber optic networks “And even though optical fiber is now in the lead, ADSL is still a very popular access mode.