Fiber optics: Covage is willing to invest more

Today, Covage deploys and operates 41 public or private networks in France, which is ultimately a cover 1.6 million homes. By the end of the year, Pascal Rialland its new leader says that it will have 500,000 lines connectable fiber. (Credits: DR) While the ARCEP, the telecom regulator, calls for a new distribution coverage in very high-speed Internet cities and moderately dense territories between telecom operators, Coverage believes, too, have a role to play.

It intends to immediately set the tone and mark its ambitions. New strong man of the operator Coverage infrastructure Rialland Pascal was appointed CEO of the group last month. It is far from unknown in the world of telecoms Pascal Rialland has spent most of his career. He led, there is little, Altice Business Enterprises, the parent company of SFR. Pascal Rialland nothing missed the recent debates on a new division between the telecom operators to cover a large number of Internet territories very high speed. If it is favorable, however, called the authorities and ARCEP, the telecom regulator, not simply redistribute the cards between the only large national operators. In his eyes, next to Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free, Coverage has the means and the will to do more.

In the jargon of telecom operator Covage is called “infrastructure.” In less dense areas of the Hexagon (which represent about half of the population, or 12 million households), it deploys and operates fiber optic networks, called public initiative networks (RIP), on behalf communities. These infrastructures, neutral and open to all retail operators, allowing them to market their Internet offerings to the public. These deployments are part of the National Broadband Plan Very (PTHD). At a cost of around 20 billion euros, this gigantic project, combining state and private operators, aims to provide access to the super-fast internet to all French in 2022.

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Problem: for months, are voices everywhere stating that this goal will not be required. Critics focus particularly on areas called “medium density”. These territories, which bring together smaller towns and suburbs of large cities (about 13 million homes) have essentially been shared between Orange and SFR. In 2011, they promised to cover these fiber optic territories in 2020. The incumbent has committed to connect about 80% of these areas, against 20% for his counterpart the red square. But last month, ARCEP has sounded the alarm. According to its president, Sébastien Soriano, the efforts of Orange and SFR in these moderately dense areas remain inadequate. According to projections by the ARCEP, at current rates,   “We’ll be late,” said the leader of the regulator.   “We see these deployments to end at best in 2023 …” he went further.

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To meet deadlines, Sébastien Soriano called for a “re-distribution” of these territories. How? Using “pragmatically all wills investments that occur at this time.” Among them, there is, of course, that of SFR, which has long campaigned for a fairer share of these areas with Orange. But also those of Free and Bouygues Telecom, who also want their share. Orange, for its part, is firmly opposed to our columns a redistribution.

“2 million made to take”

For its part, considers himself Covage also have a role to play in the event of redistribution. Even if it is not, obviously, an important player in the major national operators, called the government not to forget. According to Pascal Rialland, Coverage could intervene in two cases. On the one hand, “if there are delays in some moderately dense areas adjacent to our RIP, we can very well, and faster than anyone else, we take care of,” he says. “Here, it would be difficult to ask our subcontractors already there fibre of these areas,” insists the CEO. On the other hand, “we can position ourselves to cover some remote areas where there really is an unsatisfactory situation,” he added.

For Coverage, the stakes are potentially important. Besides the deployment of large national operators, “there are about 2 million taken up ‘in these moderately dense areas, Judge Pascal Rialland. Which recalls in passing that Coverage is already present in these territories. Recently, the operator has recovered several towns to the metropolis of Lille. He also put his hand in the very dense area, the high network throughput of the department of Hauts-de-Seine. In both cases, these are SFR delays and failures that allowed him to take the bet.

A share with deep pockets

If Pascal Rialland today proclaims its desire to invest more is because the government and ARCEP have, he said, “sometimes hard to see that there are other actors alongside four large national operators. “ To better figure “in the radar screen of government”, the leader pulls no punches. For him, “if the government’s concern is really to bring high-speed broadband to all the French in 2022, he can get there with players like Covage”. To appeal to communities, he said that its economic interest as infrastructure operator, “is to open as soon as possible its networks to all retail operators, without discrimination.” He said the competition ensures end customers the best deals at the best price. Conversely, “Orange and SFR, which directly serve the public, have no interest in having this same proactive on infrastructure,” he smiled.

Finally, Pascal Rialland promises Covage strong enough to invest more. He recalls that besides the infrastructure fund Cube Infrastructure Fund, Partners Group, the powerful Swiss investment funds, offered half the shares of the operator last year. The latter, which manages tens of billions of assets around the world, “has significant resources and is not shy shareholder” says the CEO.