Orange sounds the end of its copper network, heading for fiber optics

Orange unveils the plan to close its copper network. A turning point which should contribute to accelerating the deployment of fibre.

From the top of its 150 years, the copper wire has carried telephony since its origin to allow two people to communicate. This historic network also has the way to broadband with ADSL, still used by many French people to have internet. Aging, it is no longer interesting for Orange, which has various (good) reasons to cut the film and look to the future. As Le Monde reveals, this technology is too expensive, too fragile and too slow compared to fiber optics.

Same observation on the side of Bouygues Telecom which ensured from 2020 that the infrastructures of the fiber network “are expensive and consume 3 times more energy than the fiber network”. In addition, cable theft, road accidents or weather hazards “strongly impact the quality of service of this aging network”.

Orange pushes for the adoption of fiber optics

Indeed, copper is no longer able to follow the path traced by optical fiber whose capacities are leased, starting with bandwidth and speeds. In France, there are now more than 13 million fiber subscriptions out of nearly 32 million households ready to receive this technology. Constant growth (+4.1 million in one year) which confirms Orange in its desire to say goodbye to the old copper network. “Paying for two networks is economic heresy”confides Michel Combot, director general of the French Federation of Telecoms, to World. “In addition to the cost, interconnecting two different technologies is extremely complex”says an Orange executive.

The incumbent operator will gradually cut its network, as Stéphane Richard announced in 2019. The future ex-CEO of Orange – he will be replaced in early April by Christel Heydemann – then presented a plan called Engage 2025. However , the health crisis has disrupted the plans of the firm and it is to the future general manager of the group that this heavy task falls. Orange is indeed giving itself eight years to dismantle this network, i.e. an end scheduled for 2030.

Many questions remain unanswered

During this period, the operator promises a closure “very gradually”. He claims to want “accompanies[r] all users” network to fiber, while more than 20 million lines are still active. Orange is also regularly criticized for the state of its copper network, which had prompted the company to increase the budgets devoted to the maintenance of this network (500 million euros in 2021).

In addition to subscribers, the closure of the copper network promises tensions between operators. Concerns also remain about universal service passing “still overwhelmingly through the “copper” network”, as explained by Anssi in a report. At the end of December, a Senate control mission had alerted to the situation of the current communication system. “Faced with the disappearance of this network by 2030 in favor of the “fiber” network, it calls for the “copper” network and the emergency numbers that depend on it not to be neglected during the transition phase. », specified this mission. So many questions that Christel Heydemann will have to answer.

It also remains to be seen who will pay the bill for the dismantling of the network.

France doubles subsidy to help homes without fiber optics

On the sidelines of this announcement, it should be noted that France has decided (PDF) to double the amount of aid for those who do not have access to fiber. Appeared in 2019, the “digital cohesion of territories” window takes the form of a subsidy of 150 euros aimed at encouraging households to access “good broadband”or more than 8 Mbit/s.

The government will increase the amount of this subsidy to 300 euros “for very high speed internet offers” and up to 600 euros “subject to means). To benefit from it, it will therefore be necessary to move towards a non-wired Very High Speed ​​(THD, at least 30 Mbit/s) solution. Satellite, fixed 4G or 5G or even THD Radio are concerned.

The change will take effect from 1er April and it is possible to find out more on this site.

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