interview


Vivre la fiber

Thierry Bonhomme, is senior executive vice-president of Orange Labs Networks and Carriers

Thierry Bonhomme, is senior executive vice-president of Orange Labs Networks and Carriers

As one of the largest players in the European telecoms sector, France Telecom is at the coal face of the incredible demand for data that is sweeping the world. It’s the job of Thierry Bonhomme, senior EVP, to foresee, plan and manage the challenges of the next 12-18 months.

Right now is a crucial time for the mobile and broadband industries, as they move towards LTE and faster fixed line connections such as fiber. And according to Thierry Bonhomme the principal goal is not to deliver coverage or speed—but service.

“One key challenge is the management and the improvement of quality of service,” he says. “Not that we have poor performance today—we have pretty good performance on our broadband networks. But we need to ensure today that we will have the means to monitor and  manage QoS in the future, with the huge traffic that we will carry and the large variety of services, to meet the expectations of our customers.”

A large amount of data traffic is being created by internet giants such as Google, from both search and from its video sharing site YouTube, and from social networking sites such as Facebook. But while these firms continue to add new bandwidth-hungry services, (the video chat components of Google+ and Facebook with Skype, for example), it is up to the carriers to cope with the data deluge.

As Thierry Bonhomme observes: “Each time we introduce new performance, on the wired side, on the wireless side, the consumers are very fast in developing new usages that takes benefit from these improvements”.

Is it time then to rethink the status quo? It’s certainly something Thierry Bonhomme thinks is reasonable.

“The fact is that the global network was established with the principle of symmetry of traffic between global carriers, but with the predominance of video based traffic this principle is not valid anymore. So yes, we need to review the contracts between the global network players.”

While the vast majority of the France Telecoms’ global connections are based on xDSL, this does not mean it is limited to this focus.

“We have come to the conclusion that there is no single solution that fits all needs, all markets. The current situation differs between countries, in terms of actors present on the market, in terms of technologies already deployed. Therefore, we have developed a set of technical solutions, from FTTH to wireless broadband, to ensure that we can deploy the right technology in each market.”

As such, Thierry Bonhomme declares that there is no conflict between fixed line and wireless. “All these wired and wireless technologies are complementary. Each  has its advantages, and considering the large variety of configurations in our markets, between Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Africa, we will not use a single technology—we rely on wired and on wireless.”

“Typically, in Western Europe, wireless technologies are and will remain complementary to wired technologies. For instance, wifi is one of the tried and true solutions in our wireless technologies portfolio. wifi is at the heart of wireless technology deployment, a bridge between wired and wireless and improves the user experience anytime, anywhere and is available on any device. It extends the coverage meshing in the densest city areas and also allows mobility between mobile and fixed accesses with community wifi.  We are prepared for the increasing usage of wifi at home and in public places, through further deployments. New wifi standards are now providing end users easy connectivity and security.”

It follows then that fibre deployments are very much on France Telecom’s agenda at home, with the company announcing in 2010 that it would be investing €2bn in the deployment of fibre in France. It is now in the ramp-up stage for this deployment, with the goal of reaching ten million homes with the technologoy by 2015, representing around 40 per cent of French households.

But does Thierry Bonhomme believe a time will come when everyone will have access to fibre-to-the-home? “I believe that fibre to the premises will develop, at the pace needed for such a huge program, all over Europe. That does not mean that fibre-to-the-cabinet is a mistake, it has a pretty large window of opportunity, but the goal remains fibre-to-the-home, because the full benefit of fibre can only be achieve with FTTH”.

And what about the thorny issue of making money? How soon does France Telecom expect to see a return on those heavy fibre investments? Bonhomme admits it won’t necessarily be super speedy. “The return on investment for the fibre in the local loop is much longer than other investments. This is totally normal for fibre cables to last for a very long time, and this is one reason why we need a regulatory framework that is forward-looking and gives confidence to invest. That being said, I have no doubt that fibre access is a catalyst for new usages, new services, and these new usages will generate new revenues. We already see that the usage of Video on Demand (VoD) is higher for customers with faster access.”

Outside of France, and aside from fiber, the France Telecom Group is deploying fixed broadband heavily. Once such area is Poland, where it is building new local loops, and starting to deliver VDSL connections. In other countries such as Moldova, Armenia and in Africa, it is providing broadband access through wireless solutions.

Overall though, Bonhomme sees more opportunities than threats. “Broadband, as all telecom services, is a foundation on which services develop, and these bring enormous benefits to the society. Take videoconferencing and cloud services. I have no doubt that these services will develop for business customers but also for small enterprises and for residential customers. They will have a deep impact. For example, any small company can become a global company and sell its products while establishing partnerships all over the world”.

Thierry Bonhomme, senior executive vice-president of Orange Labs Networks and Carriers is giving a keynote speech on day three of the Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 27-29 September 2011 at the CNIT, La Defense, Paris, France.


One comment

  1. Frank 05/09/2011 @ 1:54 pm

    No need to worry about QoS if there’s sufficient capacity.

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