Free signs up 1 million FTTH subscribers

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Disrupter Illiad claims to be top alternative FTTH provider in France, doubling the number of fibre customers in just one year.

After a year of heavy investment in and accelerated deployment of fibre infrastructure, Illiad, which operates under the Free brand in France and Italy, appears to be making serious inroads into the French market, having now passed 10 million premises. This is an increase of 50% in 12 months the company says.

Also, Free has almost doubled its fibre subscriber base, attracting 420,000 new FTTH customers in 2018. The company attributes the growth to its dedicated FTTH team of 2,500.

Coverage of some 6.5 million premises in less densely populated areas has been achieved by agreements with other operators under through Public Initiative Network (PIN, locally known as Reseaux d’Initiative Publique, or RIP) agreements. The RIPs are only allowed in areas designated 'white' by the EU’s definition, meaning where there is a lack of private infrastructure investment.

Public private finance models

Local authorities may procure the construction and operation of RIPs using several different procurement methods. As an example, last October, Free signed a deal with Vendee Numerique, which is deploying a fibre network in Vendee covering 80% of the region’s homes and businesses.

During 2019, Free will start offering FTTH to towns throughout the region. The Vendee project – which will be in deployment until 2020 and will cost over €100 million – is being financed at both the regional and national level, as well as by the EU.

According to the nPerf network speed testing service, in 2018 Free scored the most highly globally for best overall performance and best throughput of its fibre network in 2018: the premises-based Delta Freebox supports throughput of 10GB.

Free says it aims to recruit half a million new fibre subscribers annually, and to pass 20 million premises by the end of 2022.