Friday, December 15, 2006

Fiber, fiber, burning bright

Christmas lights twinkle away in the early evening across Europe, and the rumor on the streets is that this year's must-have present is - fiber.

France Telecom's presentation today contained an early Christmas present for the FTTH enthusiast, not that we should have been surprised, given the pressure coming from Iliad. However, the initial response was perhaps somewhat more subdued than some had expected. I noted at least one "trading sell" recommendation ahead of today's announcement, clearly in expectation of something more radical. With the share price having languished so badly for so long, however, I think it was to be expected that the company would slow-peddle, at least initially, and it seems to have worked (FT closed up 1.7%).

However, the private equity-owned Essent Kabelcom has today received a sizeable lump of coal in its already holey Christmas stocking, as the city of Deventer, right in the heart of Essent country, finds itself the new focus of Dik Wessels' fiber attentions. Mr. Wessels' company Reggefiber has acquired FTTH specialist Y-3Net and plans to spend around EUR50m to connect all 40,000 households in the city. Unlike the Hillegom deployment, this Wessels project is apparently going to be an open network, in accordance with last week's Breedned declaration, which brought together key players in the Dutch market in a rare bit of public consensus. Vincent Dekker at Trouw quotes KPN as saying it might seek to offer services on the Deventer open net, while Essent claims it will take advantage of the open streets to upgrade its network (given its historical ties to Teleste and Ethernet-over-coax, I presume it will pursue something like this). And in the streets of Deventer this evening, the music rings out, "Cable bucks, roasting on an open fire..."

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