France Telecom has just announced that it is going to test a very high speed broadband service to about 1000 homes in selected neighbourhoods and western suburbs of Paris using fibre optics. The areas have been selected as being "more receptive to new technologies", meaning richer, said Didier Lombard, France Telecom CEO at a press conference on Tuesday. [I wonder whether FT is making a mistake here - after all, when Canal Plus started in 1984, it concentrated its marketing efforts in the richer neighbourhoods, but soon found that it sold many times more subscriptions to the Eastern arrondissements of Paris and Seine St Denis than it did in the 16th]
France Telecom has decided to go directly to optical fibre technology (FTTH – fibre to the home), skipping the intermediate VDSL stage, as it will be more long-lasting; while VDSL could provide 50 Mb/s broadband, it is expected to be supplanted by optical fibre in the medium term. The aim of the trial is to gain experience in the technology and gauge user reaction– it is not intended as the first stage of a roll out of a massive investment plan in optical fibre.
The cost of cabling each home in the trial is of the order of €1000, so the cost of the trial is of the order of €1 million. "There is no question of cabling the whole country with optical fibre at this price" said Lombard, which is bound to fall.
The homes taking part will get a triple play offer, comprising broadband at 100 Mbit/s in both upload and download directions, unlimited telephone calls to landlines, two HDTV channels via IPTV and a range of other services such as video conferencing, for a price likely to be about €80 a month. Lombard explained that this price comprises a means of selecting people who are really interested in the technology, current triple play ADSL services (at a much lower speed, which in the best cases can attain up to 20 Mb/s in the download direction) charge from around E30 a month. The trial is to begin before the summer of this year. In 2007 France Telecom could begin more pilot trials in other regions.