Orange is preparing to detail its plan to close the copper telecom network, of which 21.5 million lines are still in use in France. The operator will give itself until 2030 to deactivate this network, recover the lines and switch subscribers to fiber optics. Several reasons are put forward for this dismantling of an infrastructure that is half a century old.
Technological reasons on the one hand since if the copper could open the way to a higher speed with the ADSL, it is not any more size vis-a-vis the optical fiber whose capacities became crucial for the online services and a fortiori when they are shared by a whole family. Then the interconnection between the old and the new generation of network is complex and expensive, explains Michel Combot, general manager of the French Federation of telecoms, in The world : “ Paying for two networks is economic heresy “.
Financial reasons also for this technology which weighs 500 million per year in Orange’s operating expenses. There is this cost of interconnection but also that of energy expenditure – three times higher for ADSL copper compared to fiber – or even the land cost of thousands of telephone exchanges. Conversely, unbundling – billed to other operators – brings in around 2 billion per year for Orange, although the amount decreases as fiber increases in load (13 million subscribers out of 32 million dwellings ready to receive it).
The project as it is to be presented today by Orange provides for an extinction by region and in stages until 2030. It will take pedagogy to explain the inexorability of this change to certain subscribers – and even more so those without mobiles. — who are perfectly satisfied with their copper line or an ADSL subscription. Knowing that in addition the fiber will be subject to the risk of power cuts, unlike the old copper line and its telephone at the end.
It could also be an opportunity for renewed competition in canvassing each other to win new fiber subscribers, not to mention the scams that this kind of major change is sure to generate.
Other questions remain unanswered, such as the future of the universal electronic communications service. Orange has not been required to do so since 2020, but it had extended this service obligation until 2023. Finally, there is the cost of dismantling the copper network. A financial burden that other operators do not want to hear about — it could be a temporary increase in the unbundling rate, as Arcep has suggested — who believe that the network belonging to Orange is up to them cover the maintenance costs as well as the cost of removal until the end.