Orange’s rivals slam copper net shut-down plan

Orange’s French competitors have expressed dismay over the country’s leading telco’s plan to shut down its copper network. In submissions to a consultation organised by telecom regulator ARCEP, the telcos cited lack of transparency and lack of ambition as their principal concerns.

Orange has submitted a plan that would see it stop offering xDSL in areas where operators have built out fibre by the beginning of 2026. This would be followed by the progressive shutdown of the copper network between 2026 and 2030.

Iliad Telecom, SFR and Bouygues Telecom were all highly critical of Orange’s plans.

Iliad Telecom, which operates as Free, said in its submission that Orange should not be the sole decision maker in the shutdown. It said that governance should be shared so that operators could decide in common that any given area earmarked for closure of the copper network should have adequate access to fibre.

Iliad said that Orange should not be the sole arbiter of a process that would remove the network that has supported universal access to telecoms for 50 years. It cited the example of the shutdown of analogue terrestrial broadcasting, which was subject to much more intensive scrutiny.

Iliad said that Orange had to be more transparent in providing information about which homes were connectable to fibre.

It also criticised the timetable for the shutdown as lacking in ambition. Iliad said that Orange’s plan envisaged shutting down only 10% of copper lines by 2026, with half of lines earmarked for shutdown only by 2029-30. It said it was barely comprehensible that Orange could maintain copper lines in fibred areas at considerable cost and at the same time demand higher charges for access to rivals.

Lack of transparency

SFR, for its part, complained in a highly detailed submission about a lack of transparency from Orange and a lack of response from the operator to concerns it raised.

The operator demanded that ARCEP develop a more stable and structured approach, providing legal certainty for rivals and basing the process on a structured organisation.

It said that operators should have 12 months’ notice ahead of the ceasing of commercialisation of copper to each address, with a delay of no less than 36 months between the end of commercialisation and the technical shutdown of the copper network.

SFR also said that Orange should not be allowed to degrade the quality of service available via copper during the transition. It said there was a need for rigorous monitoring of the availability of fibre with 100% coverage in zones earmarked for shutdown and called for more financial support from the state, among other things.

Bouygues Telecom meanwhile said that Orange’s plan to cease commercialisation of copper by 2026 “puts at risk the whole of the plan of closure” of the network.

It said that Orange envisaged revision of the necessity of completion of France’s fibre rollout ahead of shutdown of the copper network if the rollout was subject to delay, which would deepen the digital divide that was already a source of concern in the country.

Bouygues said there was an urgent need for a much more structured approach led by ARCEP.

Most Recent