France leads Europe in fibre broadband

November 24, 2012   |   Tim Johnson

One of the European Union’s most ambitious targets is to make sure that all its citizens can get access to superfast broadband at home, if they choose, by 2020.  A new study by broadband specialists Point Topic shows France is now over 39% towards achieving that aim. This means that 39% of French homes can subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.

Fibre broadband or FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) accounts for a large part of this superfast coverage.  France has the biggest FTTP footprint in Europe, with almost 6 million homes passed, nearly a quarter of the European total.  France also has a well-developed cable network which delivers superfast services to rural areas more than in most countries.

The study which provides this data has been produced for DG Connect, the department of the European Commission which is responsible for its “Digital Agenda” strategy.  The purpose of the Digital Agenda is to harness the internet and other digital technologies to drive sustainable economic growth.  Neelie Kroes, the Commission vice-president responsible, wants to see €7 billion earmarked for EU investments in broadband to help reach Digital Agenda targets, which in turn is meant to draw in private funds of many times that amount.

“This study gives us the best view so far of where action is needed on broadband coverage,” says Neelie Kroes.  “It will help to guide decisions on where EU and private money can be invested to provide the best long-term return for taxpayers and investors such as pension funds.”

Called Broadband Coverage in Europe in 2011, the new study shows that 99% of the homes in France can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe.  Over 39% can get superfast broadband, also known as NGA, for Next Generation Access.  Looking at the 29 study countries as a whole (all 27 members of the EU, plus Norway and Iceland), 96% can already get basic broadband and over 50% – half way to the “digital heaven” target for 2020 – can get superfast.

Basic broadband is fairly widespread now, only three EU countries have less than 90% coverage.  But there are huge variations in superfast availability both internationally and within countries. As far as France is concerned, the map shows that while Paris and its closest suburbs enjoy 100% superfast coverage, further suburbs and some city regions – Lyons, Strasbourg, Marseilles – have between 89% and 69%.  Then many relatively urban regions, spread right across France, from the Riviera to the North and from the Jura to Brittany are in the 35% to 65% range.  Another 21 departments, mostly those with large towns, have at least 10% NGA coverage, three more have just one or two percent and 43, including all the overseas ones, have none. This well reflects the situation of a majority of countries in Europe, where rural areas have much lower coverage of superfast broadband than the towns and suburbs, only 12% on average.

Superfast broadband coverage map in France (end 2011)

Figure 1 Next generation access broadband coverage map – France (end-2011)

The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart.   In France, Docsis 3 broadband over the cable TV network is the most important superfast technology with 28% coverage.  This reflects the situation across Europe as a whole where Docsis 3 also leads on 37%.  FTTP on the other hand is well ahead of the European average of 12% with a healthy 21% coverage.  But VDSL, the technology which provides superfast speeds over the telephone network, is not in use for home broadband in France although it averages 21% coverage across Europe as a whole.

“When we add all these technologies together we have to take account of the overlap,” explains Tim Johnson, who led the project as Point Topic’s Chief Analyst.  “This is how we get to superfast coverage of 39% in France.”  The problem is that the superfast operators compete to serve the richer and more densely populated areas in each country, leaving others underserved.  “Hopefully this project will give policy-makers some of the information they need to start addressing that problem,” says Johnson.

Broadband coverage in France - comparison with the European Union

Figure 2 Comparison of broadband coverage in France with the European Union

Key to technologies

DSL – provides broadband speeds up to 24 megabits per second over the telephone network
VDSL (Very-fast DSL) – provides superfast speeds (30Mbps or more) over the telephone network
FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) – delivers the fastest possible broadband over optical fibre to apartment blocks or all the way to individual homes
WiMAX – the up-to-date standard for broadband over wireless links to fixed aerials
Standard cable – provides broadband over cable TV networks using older standards
Docsis 3 cable – the up-to-date standard for providing superfast broadband over cable TV networks
HSPA – the up-to-date standard for mobile broadband over 3G networks
LTE – the new standard for fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband
Satellite – two-way broadband delivered over the newest satellites using KA-Band technology
Standard combination – shows the combined coverage of all the fixed-line broadband technologies
NGA combination – shows the combined c overage of all the fixed-line superfast broadband technologies (VDSL, FTTP and Docsis 3)

About Point Topic

Point Topic is the primary websource for DSL, FTTx, cable and other broadband supplier and user statistics, databases, information and reports. Its data is in use worldwide amongst governments, commercial organisations and as general reference. A range of online services provides the most up-to-date, accurate and cost effective worldwide and UK specific broadband data sets available.

For media information please contact Dana Corson at [email protected] or Emma Johnson at [email protected] or on: +44 1636 812152.