Dirk van der Woude, Amsterdam’s broadband maven, working with CityNet, writes with the news that Paris has decided to go for the gold. Not to be outdone by either San Francisco’s wireless or Amsterdam’s fiber (a story I have shamefully neglected) Paris has decided that noththing less than both will properly prepare the queen city of Europe for the future.
This is a story with a nice, neat, story line behind it.
An earlier missive from Dirk pointed to a French law that “organizes loopholes” in French and European Union law to encourage municipalities to build fiber optic networlks. That’s similar in effect to the
FeinbergLautenberg-McCain bill proposed here in the United States which would clear away obstacles to municipal participation in telecommunications. And serves notice that it’s not only the Asian countries (mentioned in Saturday’s post) that have developed rational, pro-active, broadband policies.
Apparently Paris is going to take advantage of those loopholes. In a story Dirk sends (in Bablefish translation) we can see the basic outline:
Paris City Hall launches into the very high speeds
The mayor of Paris would like to favor the development of the services of free access to internet by launching the construction of a city wide telecommunications
The City hall of Paris announced the launch during the year 2006 of a tender for the
construction of a telecommunications network with very high debit(output) in the
whole of the capital.
In a communiqué, the City hall clarified that it would be about a network in optical fibres, faster than networks at present available ADSL. Besides, the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, ” wishes to favor the development by the operators of the services of free access to internet (normal debit(output)) and in the local telephony, notably in favour of the most modest Parisians “, we can read in the communiqué.
(above is a machine translation of article in Nouvel Observateur of 5-1-2006)
More articles (in French):
Machine translation French => English at http://babelfish.altavista.com/
You can also take a look at the pdf formatted communicque/Press Release provided by and with a translation from Dirk.
My interpretation is that the city of Paris, the largest city in Europe, anticipates building a very high speed fiber-optic system and hanging a “normal speed” (?) wireless network off that. Perfect! The hidden limit of most wireless systems is anemic backhaul. A fiber network would fix that. The wireless network at “normal” speeds would be free. (That’s where the specification of normal gets interesting.) But even more: it’s including local telephony for free. Now there is a concept.
I’ve suggested in the past the quintuple play: Cable, voice, wireline internet, usable wireless data, & wireless voice. The last two are made possible by a wireless network hung off a fiber one. The ultimate technology play is the synergy between ultra highspeed wireline and high speed wireless that would make entirely new levels of applications concievable. Paris looks to be trying to make that play. Making wireless data free and voice communications between citizens free as well is certain to make nearly every Parisian a user. Some will see that as a huge “profit” opportunity forgone. But they are thinking like our incumbent monopolies. Paris is thinking like a utility: it exists chiefly to benefit its citizens, not distant owners. Since wireless is relatively cheap to add to a fiber build and, locally at least, the fiber network will give you more badwidth than you can use just give away the wireless. That insures deep, almost universal penetration, makes it certain that new wireless technologies get developed with a French (not Californian, cough, cough) flair and sets in train as wide and unpredictable an array of benefits as did the doctrine of universal service in American telephony. (A tradition the world envies and which we, ironically, are about to give up.) The network effects of having a whole city use wireless freely (in all senses) is impossible to calculate. But its benefits will surely be larger than the minor cost to the city of Paris if it is built as part of the fiber rollout. (I and others have estimated that cost at aproximately 5%.)
Mark my words; if this comes to fruition it will mark the new “must meet” standard for world cities and drive the rate at which technological change is translated into culutral commonplace harder and faster than we’ve ever seen. In ten years we may look back on it as a landmark day.
I’d love to see Lafayette follow suit. Or get out front.
Update 1-10-06 AM:
Light Reading has story on this: Paris Plans FTTH Network It focuses solely on the FTTH aspect but does include some interesting tidbits about equipment makers (Lafayette buyers looking for equipment made cheaper by mass deployment take note) and the following quote:
Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Graham Finnie, who follows European broadband developments, says the news is of major significance. “This would be a much larger project than Amsterdam, potentially involving millions of homes,” he says. “This news, on top of the Dutch project, should make every large city in Europe look at the potential of a municipal network, and consider whether they should be doing something similar..
“The companies that need to take the most notice are Europe’s incumbent national operators. This should spur them on to look again at whether they need to revisit the whole fiber-to-the-home area,” that many have deemed too costly to develop.
Translation from guarded business-speak to everyday language: These two FTTH projects demonstrate that in Europe, as in the US, patience with the incumbent providers has run out. If they want a role in the future they will have start rolling out FTTH or watch Europes largest cities–and most lucrative markets–go muni.