Saturday, September 29, 2007

Missed opportunity / un occasion manquée

St Nom - Gas trench across D307 I walked down to the church today and they have indeed finished the the trench across the main street (D307) that runs through the village. It's too bad that I was not ready to put in conduit when they had the street opened up. It feels like a missed opportunity but I just wasn't ready.

However, I have learned something from this. I'm going to contact the Mairie in our village to find out if there are any other projects coming up where they'll be doing roadwork. I spoke to the Mayor in June but didn't ask about other groups getting permission to dig. This way I'll be ready the next time someone comes to town to dig up the road.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Distance to the exchange / Distance au commutateur

I was driving back home tonight with the family and we started up the road where the exchange is located to get home. It's a bit of a shortcut for people going to our section of St Nom. We had the GPS turned on so I decided to reset the odometer at the exchange to see how far our residence was "as the car drives".

I was surprised to see the exchange was closer than I had estimated. Driving in the car, the bottom of our residence was only 400-450 meters away. The only problem is the road going up to the village from the exchange is cobblestone - which could certainly complicate matters for a dig.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why our sidewalks need repair / Pourquoi nous devons réparer nos trottoirs

Shallow asphalt on sidewalk in St NomI noticed how badly our sidewalks need repair as I was walking out of the residence the other day. The asphalt has simply broken away in certain areas. It some ways it was nice because it allowed me to look at what was going on underneath. I was a bit surprised at how shallow the asphalt actually is. There was just rock and dirt underneath.

I had never really thought about the depth of the asphalt on the road and sidewalks.

I uploaded the picture I took that morning to my flikr account along with the other photos I snapped of the gas dig in our neighborhood. I laughed as I was uploading the pictures because my account is full of pictures of dirt, holes, sidewalks and streets - all interesting to me but probably not to the general public!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conduit for the gas network in St Nom / Conduit pour le réseau de gaz a St Nom

Yellow gas conduit Large gas conduit in St Nom

I left the house this evening with the car and drove past the church right at the bottom of our residence. There was a whole area cordoned off around a fresh dig and a roll of yellow conduit. The dig was ready to go under the exact street that we would have to cross to get to the exchange.

In France (and probably other places) builders are required to use a certain color of conduit to put in the ground so that other workers will know what it is if they come across it in their own digs.

I knew that red was for electricity and blue was for water but I wasn't sure what yellow was for. If it was for telecom I would have taken the day off tomorrow and asked the construction crew how I could possibly lay my own conduit quickly next to theirs. If I could get across the main street the next little bit to the exchange would be much easier.

I was already planning on calling Vincent MONVILLE for something unrelated and thought if anyone could tell me what the yellow color represented he could. I asked him about the conduit and he explained that is was for gas. He chuckled when he said that it's not a great idea to try and mix fiber and gas. :)

So close...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Moment to set up the business / Le moment pour la création de l'entreprise

This evening I spent time talking to a French friend of mine who has a tech-related startup (Mulot Déclic) here in France. We talked about the FTTH project as a whole and about what I would need to do to register the company here in France. He grilled me about how and if this project could be expanded later on. It was a very good exercise to try and convince him that it could work. If I ever do want to expand I'll have to make similar explanations to investors.

One of the key things we discussed was the need to set up a proper business here in France. He assured me that setting one up wasn't as difficult as it is often made out to be. He said that now it was possible to do a lot of it online and that the cost of registering the business should be around EUR 300.

He and his wife are also the brains behind the name for the company. I grabbed the domain name a few months ago and will publish it all as soon as the official business registration goes though. They're both native French speakers and were able to come up with something really catchy.

The Mayor told me I needed a proper business if I wanted to do any street work outside of the residence. It will also make things much more straight-forward when it comes to getting an agreement with our residence association. The only outstanding question is whether I'll need to take on a French partner to register the company - given that I don't have a standard French work permit. I'll look into that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How long of a loop? / Quelle longueur pour la boucle locale?

It's clear to me that one of the most challenging elements for network operators is actually mapping out the most efficient topology in terms of capacity and cost. I thought I had decided how I would lay out the network but now I'm starting to wonder if I should readjust after certain developments here in France.

One of my big struggles now is how long to make the "local loop" element of the network. I know that "local loop" typically refers to a copper twisted pair but I'm not sure exactly what you would call its replacement in FTTH-speak.

Initially I had imagined putting a concentration point in the middle of our residence (100 meters away) where I could install active equipment. Then any operator could come and patch into us to offer services at the edge of our network. However, now I'm beginning to wonder if I should plan on taking all fibers all the way back down to the exchange 600 meters away.

If I thought that I would surely stop at just laying fiber in our residence then locating the active equipment next to us would probably be a good idea. However, the situation becomes a bit more complicated if I ever decide to spread out the fixed costs of connecting to exchange by expanding the project to other subdivisions at a later date.

I'm not sure that it makes good economic sense to place active equipment in each subdivision of a small village. It's not cost effective for the equipment and it surely introduces more potential points of failure. At the same time, it may not be cost effective to run a large amount of fiber to the edges of the village several kilometers away either.

Right now this is playing out in Paris. France Telecom's PON network requires less physical space than Iliad/Free's point-to-point network. That means that Free is likely looking for property all over Paris where it can locate active equipment to terminate its fiber closer to users.

I don't need to make all these decisions now since I can wait to see how the project progresses and if other subdivisions are interested in connecting with us. One of the important decisions for now though is how big of conduit I should put in leaving our residence out to the exchange? Do I plan for something big enough to accommodate future growth - even if it will increase my up-front fixed costs?

Friday, September 7, 2007

France Telecom's FTTH - La fibre de France Telecom

I recently took a tour of France Telecom's FTTH rollout in Paris and wanted to write about it for a few reasons. It wasn't related to my own fiber plans but there were a couple of inter-related items.

  1. France Telecom is proposing to share the internal fiber wiring it the buildings it connects with competitors as long as they are willing to reciprocate. I spoke with someone before I'd gone and I didn't understand exactly what they were doing until I saw it for myself. FT puts in a cabinet in the basement of an apartment building which holds their passive GPON equipment. All the single fiber lines to apartments come down from the ceiling right beside the FT cabinet where they can easily be patched into the FT equipment (or theoretically a competitors). ARCEP, the regulator here in France, launched a consultation recently on sharing the internal wiring of buildings and France Telecom seems agree with the regulator that this is the best way to avoid having to go down the functional separation route.

  2. A neutral fiber network within the building is not much different than a neutral fiber network in a small residence. At one point I asked one of the FT people if they would consider connecting to a residence that had put it its own fiber. Their unofficial answer was that they likely would. They also explained that they would be particularly interested if there was empty conduit in place where they could blow through their own fiber.

The whole visit pretty much re-energized me for the project because I believe that by putting part of the network in place myself I'll be able to attract operators. The idea of connecting 50 homes may not be a huge draw for them but once the network is in place I plan on making enough noise publicly when I'm looking for operators that it should be in their interest to participate.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Upgrading the exchange in St Nom - Travail sur le NRA a St Nom

The other day one of my friends in the residence passed along news about our telecom exchange. He said that he heard our France Telecom exchange (NOM78) in St Nom La Breteche is about to be upgraded in December and the lines all regrouped back there from other distant exchanges. I've heard this before but haven't seen any movement near the exchange which would suggest imminent work.

Our mayor did have a meeting with France Telecom in June where they asked for more land to expand the exchange. The rumor around the village says that it was supposed to be completed next month (September) but now they've pushed the date back to December 2007.

I don't think there's much chance of it happening that quickly. If France Telecom asked for more land then they're going to need to build a bigger exchange and likely allow for collocation. The current exchange is just too small. I've lived here long enough to know that construction projects take longer than a few months to put together - particularly if France Telecom was still discussing the land issue two months ago.

There are some interesting implications however for the fiber project. Our exchange is probably 400-600 meters from the residence which means people could see a huge jump in bandwidth using ADSL2+. I would hope that competitive operators would take advantage of full unbundling at our exchange because those are the best offers in the market right now.

This is great news for the residence but could make convincing people to switch to fiber and pay more for it a bit more difficult. If they do upgrade quickly then I'm going to have to come up with an interesting "local" application for fiber that would convince people to sign up through us. I thought about a security service for their homes but it's an area I don't know much about.