We previously examined the experience of Germany’s telephony migration in PSTN Switch Off: Avoiding Germany’s mistakes. Here we examine the PSTN migration experience for our French cousins just across the Channel.

Whereas the Germans were pretty much employed a hands-off approach and tackled the tricky problem of PSTN migrating to a VOIP solution with the regulator BNetzA.

The French Connection – will it work?

The French are taking an altogether Gaullist state directed approach.

Orange the French telecoms giant were handed the lead by national regulator Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes (ARCEP) in 2014 to lead the migration.

Orange have till 2030 to make it happen and according to recent developments they are making a pretty good fist of it.

So what are they doing right?

Well, firstly from last November last year customers have not been able to buy a new digital PSTN line. Analogue lines were discontinued a year earlier.

Orange designed the migration in stages based on geographical districts or ‘plaques’. The first plaque will be completed by 2023.  The rest of France will be wrapped up seven years later.

ARCEP laid down the guidelines to Orange. They ordered the telecoms giant abide by the requirements of the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The USO demands everyone in France is connected and at an affordable price. There’s no argument or French shrugs, just do it. So that’s ARCEP’s approach and it appears to be working.

Perfidious Free French?

So with good planning and a successful trial in Brittany in 2017 to iron out any technical issues the French seem pretty well prepared to make a smooth transition to a world of VOIP.

However some operators have seen the possible transition and disruption to nab a few customers. Free, a broadband provider sent out a emailed to LLU subscribers encouraging them to migrate. Free cited the risk of service disruption when Orange migrates to all-IP service.

Orange saw red and threatened Free with legal action. Sheepishly Free backed down and sent out an amending email stating that the disruption would not have any consequences.

Lessons learned for UK?

With uncertainty surrounding the UK’s trading position in a post Brexit world, the business community is crying out for certainty.

So into the mix the turmoil surrounding the economic shut down surrounding Coronavirus, and clear direction from the regulators would be a good start.

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