Is FttB, as FttH, the “real fiber”? The government decided, with the approval of ARCEP, to give a negative answer and, therefore, to rule in favor of Orange and Free against Numericable-SFR.
By a decree dated March 1st, 2016, the government imposed obligations for the use of the term “fiber” in order to improve the transparency of the operators’ communication regarding their broadband offers and to ensure consumer prior information on the technical features of wire broadband offers, notably regarding the nature of the physical medium of the connection from the multi-dwelling unit to the home.
It was a significant issue because the optical fiber market is now an important driver of growth for the leading telecommunication operators that are engaged in a fierce competition which opposes offers based on different technologies and architectures: on the one hand, FttH networks (“Fiber to the Home”), on which the optical fiber is deployed from end-to-end, including inside the home of the subscriber and, on the other hand, cable networks (in particular FttLA networks – “Fiber to the Last Amplifier” or FttB – “Fiber to the Building”), on which the final connection is made via a coaxial copper cable, the fiber network ending at the boundary of the building.
Orange and Free brought complaint before the DGCCRF accusing Numericable-SFR of misleading advertising for offering to the consumer a “false fiber” deployed in FttB and not a “real fiber” deployed in FttH.
In order to answer criticisms, Numericable-SFR has always explained that differences between the two technologies are minimal for the consumer and that the new technology FttB Docsis 3.0 provides a downstream rate equivalent to FttH.
Therefore, with the above mention decree, the government decided to rule in favor of the supporters of the “real fiber” and for a better transparency for the consumer.
Thus, any Internet Service Provider using FttB will have to include the statement “(except the connection to the home)” into “any advertising message or commercial document […] using the term “fiber” in association with the services of the provider although the final subscriber connection is not made in optical fiber”.
In addition, in case of non-radio advertising, this statement shall be completed by a second statement indicating that “the connection of the home is not in fiber but in …”.
Published on March 25, 2016, the decree will enter into force on June 1st, 2016 for the advertising messages and on March 1st, 2017, for the commercial documents.
This decision is hard on Numericable-SFR which declared to be seeking for “any available judicial remedy” in France and in Europe against the decree that they consider to be “technically unfounded”.