First ADSL2+, Then Fiber

It is an irony of sorts – France, long the bastion of socialist styled capitalism – is behaving like a free market economy. Okay that is a stretch, but when it comes to broadband it really is. In the US, when cities announce plans for munibroadband, the incumbents big and small respond with crocodile tears and a lobbying effort that could put a Republican Presidential Campaign to shame. In France when the populist mayors, and presidents trumpet “the broadband for all” mantra, the private sector responds with more aggressive rollouts, bigger, faster networks. (Okay people I am oversimplifying, but forgive me for my NyQuill-addled brain is in an underperforming mode right now.)

A few days ago I pointed out that Mayor of Paris was looking to get a fiber network rolled out in the city. Now there is word that France Telecom will soon start testing a “very high speed” data offering in six districts in Paris and six cities in Hauts-de-Seine using Fiber to the Home (FTTH) technology. And it could happen before the summer of 2006.

Regardless, this is an interesting development, given that France Telecom has always championed DSL. But now they feel that in the end fiber is better because the company wants to offer HDTV on multiple TVs, VoIP, online gaming and other services. If this plan works, the French incumbent will do a rollout in rest of its service regions by 2007. An overtly aggressive plan, I must say. Still it follows a similar path in Japan, where fiber is slowly spreading and gaining market share at DSL’s expense. In the US, Verizon is using fiber to essentially replicate a cable TV infrastructure and layering some data on top of it. James Enck says German incumbent, Deutsche Telekom is planning to roll out a 50-city FTTC network as well. So far its been a DSL-driven broadband provider. I wonder if this could become an all familiar upgrade path: milk the copper as long as you can, and then switch to fiber?