How telecoms will manage to tow the shipwrecked fiber optics

The problems of connecting individuals to fiber optics in France are a reality, and although they may be concentrated in certain territories (Essonne, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, etc.), they seriously tarnish the image of this technology to the general public and communities.

Localized outages, poor national image

According to Olivier Corolleur, deputy general manager of Arcep, 8 fiber optic networks representing 2% of the fleet in the first quarter of 2022 would represent the vast majority of outages. Altitude Infra and XpFibre, two infrastructure operators operating public initiative networks in sparsely and moderately dense areas, provide figures that corroborate the concentration of outages in a few areas.

At Altitude Infra, out of 7,200 mutualisation points (or “PM”, the famous shared cabinets in which the connection of the fibers of the subscriber and commercial operators are made), 200 would suffer from an exploitability problem according to the operator. At XpFibre, 50% of the problems would be concentrated on 2.5% of PM, in particular in Bondy, Saint-Priest, Gagny and Neuilly-sur-Marne.

Behind these somewhat abstract figures, we discover a painful reality for some municipalities. The deputy of Essonne Marie Guévenoux indicated for example, during a conference organized by the telecoms regulator on September 22, that the city of Soisy-sur-Seine had recorded 3200 incidents on its network in 2021 (for 7000 inhabitants! ). Montgeron, Draveil, Saint-Pierre-du-Perray, in the same department, are experiencing similar situations.

Frying on the lines built before the THD plan

But what is happening on the French networks, when France is the leader in fiber in Europe? The technical problems are of two kinds: the networks themselves, and the connections made by the technicians.

Regarding the networks, it is the ten-year-old infrastructures that pose a problem. Networks designed with “atypical engineering”before Arcep defined the current standards of the Very High Speed ​​Plan, and whose PM can connect up to 1000 households in a single cabinet while the new standards limit this number to 300. Altitude Infra is faced with this problem in Essonne, and XpFibre in the Lyon suburbs, for example.

The CEO of XpFibre, Lionel Recorbet, also attributes to this legacy of 300 old PMs the administrative investigation of which it is the subject, opened by Arcep at the end of 2021 following numerous reports received by the regulator. The president of Arcep, Laure de la Raudière, awaits the refurbishment plans for these PMs by October 15, and will judge according to the character “ambitious enough in terms of the number of municipalities and cabinets”.

Technicians asked to comply with new procedures

Concerning the connections, the breakdowns come from technicians who do not respect “the rules of art” and sometimes disconnect Pierre to connect Jacques. In some cabinets, it’s anarchy. “As an infrastructure operator, we have 6% connection failures, of which 70% are due to technicians, 30% to the network”, explains David El Fassy, ​​the president of Altitude Infra. For Lionel Recorbet of XpFibre, this situation stems from a “growing pains” related to “very large number of new connections”which amount to 3500 per day on its network.

It is to respond to these difficulties that the sector has drawn up a quality plan in four areas: labeling of stakeholders, sharing of technicians’ intervention schedules in order to be able to control them, systematic intervention reports, and a handover plan. nine of the PM in critical condition. Arcep has already received Altitude Infra’s takeover plans, which represent an investment of 4 million euros to completely redo 70 PM, and is awaiting those of Iliad and XpFibre. The regulator has undertaken to monitor operators’ commitments on a monthly basis, and to send it to the Minister Delegate for Digital and Telecoms, Jean-Noël Barrot.

A “fibre license”

On the subject of labeling, the latter warned on October 5, speaking at the University of Very Flow, that self-certification was not an acceptable solution in the long term, and that labeling by a trusted third-party organization should take over as soon as possible. In the meantime, to avoid shutting down all connections by sending everyone to training, the sector will set up a sort of one-point permit: certification is granted automatically, and the technician loses it. he is caught in the act of poor workmanship.

As for intervention reports, the aim is to improve the proportion of usable photos sent by technicians to infrastructure operators. Today, roughly a third of these photos are valid (the others are blurry, duplicates, etc.). The operators want to go to 50 to 70% at the end of 2022, and 95% in June 2023, by imposing financial penalties on commercial operators who assign technicians. We are talking about a significant number of photos (1800 per hour at Altitude Infra), which will be analyzed using artificial intelligence techniques.

The threat of a more coercive law

Philippe Le Grand, the president of Infranum, which represents the telecom infrastructure sector, is betting everything on this quality plan to restore the image of fiber. “We must have confidence in our plan!”he called on Tuesday the senator of Ain Patrick Chaize, author of a bill aimed at strengthening controls and sanctions vis-à-vis telecom operators, in order to put an end to the quality problems of service on fiber networks.

“chickreplies the senator. But trust does not exclude control.” If he recognizes that “the intentions are there”, Patrick Chaize is waiting to see, before possibly agreeing to withdraw his text. In the meantime, he tells us that his bill is at the top of the pile of texts to be examined in Parliament. It could be before the end of the year.

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How telecoms will manage to tow the shipwrecked fiber optics


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