For anyone living in Ain (01) there's now a great optical fibre connection opportunity for a really good TV, phone & Internet connection. This hasn't reached all the département yet, but most areas should be connected with some sort of high speed system within the next year or two.
Some years ago, an Ain public body, the SIEA decided that public money should be used to invest in a high-speed communications network for the entire département, which is mainly rural but has some important high-tech locations, such as the French side of CERN. The network would be mainly optical fibre though with some wireless systems for very rural locations. Sufficient fibre was planned so that every building covered could have a fibre connection. Some communes have local fibre but a wireless link whilst waiting for a trunk fibre connection.
The network began to be put in place a few years ago and now 187 communes have fibre available to almost all homes & businesses. Quite a number of ISPs could be used, but the larger operators were only available if you were a business user, and the private user had a somewhat limited choice of rather small operators. These were definitely more expensive, and more limited in their offers, than getting ADSL from one of the major ISPs. As a result. these small ISPs didn't do all that well in the domestic market, in spite of offering 100Mb/s bi-directionally.
Last September this changed as the cable operator, Numéricable, who are buying SFR, after running some internal tests, started to offer a very high speed service to private users using the SIEA fibre. I recommended this to some friends who were moving into a new apartment that was fibre connected during construction (as required around here). Their installation went extraordinarily smoothly and I decided to go for it myself, despite having a reasonable (6 Mb/s) ADSL connection from SFR. (We are about 5km from the telephone exchange.)
As computing & communication networks were my professional field, I carried out some research into the mechanisms that Numéricable are using, and these are very interesting (for some people) & I'll post them in a follow-up. In practice, I prepared my house for the installation by putting in a coax cable from the electrical panel to the study, as I knew that this would be needed. (The installers would have done that for me, but possibly at extra cost.) As I was ready, the entire installation was completed in just over two hours, including pulling in about 70 metres of fibre cable from the street and all the fibre cable connection work. 15 minutes more & the box had updated itself & I was online! Tests to Uk sites give results touching 180 Mb/s, though this is not bidirectional. The service offers around 5 to 6 Mb/s upload speed, which is still about 10 times what I had with ADSL and, as with most home users, upload speed isn't all that important to me.
Later the same day (Good Friday) the ADSL link was cut off & calls to my old phone no. came through to the phone attached to the new box.
The new service provides a pile of French TV channels, which I've never had before as I don't have a normal TV antenna. (It doesn't provide Swiss TV, though the Swiss border is only 3 kms away. I guess the channels are all centrally sourced.) I don't think that this will make a big difference in our lives, as we have UK satellite TV, but I did watch the Heineken Cup rugby, recorded through the new box, over the weekend. We still get the free domestic and international phone calls to what appear to be the same (landline) destinations as with SFR, but now get 'free' calls to French mobiles as well. (In fact, the abonnement is increased by €5.00 to cover this.) Overall, the long-term price is about €8 more expensive than we were paying SFR, but only €3 more if you allow for the calls to French mobiles. At the moment, however, you can get something like €13 monthly as an initial discount for the first 12 months, as well as some other discounts, so it will cost about the same over the first 5 years or so.
This Numéricable system is something of a first, as it seems to be one of the earliest large-scale implementations of cable TV technology running all the way on fibre right to the end-user's building. What makes it doubly interesting is that it's using a network that was installed by public, rather than private, investment. The SIEA even pay for the installation & buy the box that is installed in the building to convert the fibre to the internal (coaxial) cable. They then, of course, charge Numéricable a monthly fee to recover the investment.
It will be interesting to see how, and where, this goes in the future. Those interested could do worse than take a look at La Fibre.info (in French).