There is a big broadband gap between France's urban and rural areas. In an interview with ZTE Technologies, Frederic Chassaing, Nomotech Methods & Quality Director, and Jonathan Arias, Nomotech Chief Technical Officer, talked about how the company uses radio technology to offer high speed internet in rural areas where fiber is not easily available and how it will explore new technologies and opportunities in the future. Founded in 2003, Nomotech specializes in high and ultra-high-speed broadband internet access, covering mainly rural areas using terrestrial technologies.
"Nomotech objectives is to achieve very high speed internet access nationally in France by addressing the two million homes that will be permanently deprived of FTTH connection."
Why is rural broadband so vital in France?
France is keeping a strong will of equality: everyone should get the same quality of broadband, wherever he lives. In France, 20% of the population lives in rural areas. It is therefore very expensive and sometimes too difficult to reach all users with the FTTH.
We know that in 10 years' time or more, there will be two million people without optical fiber in France so Nomotech wants to bring internet to all these forgotten people with high bandwidth. We keep increasing the data rates, and we can actually easily bring 30 Mbps or 50 Mbps to the customers. In the future, we will carry using to the maximum capacity the technology offer.
What efforts has the industry made in bridging the digital divide in rural areas?
The industry has had to organise itself into a big federation, named InfraNum. This federation speaks with the government and tries to make sure that the best decisions will be made for the future. ZTE is really involved in this industry to join the effort and create strong partnerships in order to help the digital divide. We have developed thanks to InfraNum, skills empowerment, standardization, relationship with the French government and the local authorities.
What difficulties have you met during your deployments?
All territories are different and the difficulty is to adapt the technology to these territories. Each case is specific. You have in France 100 departments. Each department is very different from the neighboring one. So we must choose and adapt the better technology for each case. However, to deploy it, we always use the same industrial operating method.
Nomotech is very flexible, innovative and resourceful and will always find the best compromise to deploy the right product for each situation.
“This solution (Fixed Wireless Access) must be adopted in every rural area in France, to help the most isolated and forgotten people”
You have maintained strong growth. How do you attribute your success?
Strategy and hard work. We are focused on our strategy, staying very close to the customer's needs. Regular meetings, calls and follow up on the actions required for the project, give Nomotech the edge to be close to their customers, their needs and objectives. Nomotech is present to each step of the project and can therefore advise the best technological choice and stay the best option for the customer.
But above all, the main factor of success is hard work. No success without work. You can be clever, wealthy, visionary, but without work nothing is possible. Of course, at times we were in a good place at the good time, or signing
the good partnership.
What do you think of the prospects of fixed wireless broadband in France?
As explained, the optical fiber will never go everywhere in France. Our customers are becoming more and more convinced that “Fixed Wireless Access” is the better solution to help the digital divide. Thanks to its performances and an increased number of final customers using this technology, this solution is about to be adopted in every rural area in France. The thing that makes Nomotech a leader in France on this alternative technology is because we can deploy one network very fast. For one entire department, we can deploy radio everywhere in 12 months. This becomes an advantage for the departments because they continue to put optical fiber, and as we know it isn’t a fast process, so Nomotech can deploy one radio network to help them offer internet access rapidly while waiting for the optical fiber to
be deployed fully.
Where do you see the biggest challenges?
Thanks to the market opening with the dedicated spectrum, the biggest challenge is now to propose a quality of service and a broadband internet access able to match with what the customers is expecting to get. The whole added value of our model comes from the expertise and experience of the radio engineering. This is one of the reasons why we have picked ZTE. They helps Nomotech closely in all these reflections.
We are now in the process of qualifying a solution to propose 100 Mbps and more to any customer on the network. In the future, we will continue to provide better rates to our customers in order to suit their always increasing needs, using new kind of architecture and more equipment deployed in the territories. This is what we have been facing for 15 years, and it's still the same story: more broadband, higher quality of service and less latency. But we always must balance the cost and the revenue.
“With 5G, it will be easier for us to address specific things.”
What do you see as Nomotech's new opportunities going forward?
All the 5G announcements appear to be a strong opportunity for us. The latest technological evolution has always helped us propose better quality and better access to local authorities to the final customers. But we need to understand well the 5G model to understand how we can adapt it to our model because we are not a mobile operator but a fixed access operator.
We are looking at introducing 5G in new areas. For example, we can provide services for industrial park or specific customers with specific requirements with very low latency and very high bit rates. Actually, it is not easily possible because we put a base station to cover a large area and all the customers share the services. But with 5G (beamforming and MIMO), it will be easier for us to address specific things. We also launched an IoT activity, using our radio skills to propose new networks and new services, through our company NomoSense.
Where do you see the future for Nomotech?
We want to stay leader in France on rural radio technology for a long time. We also want to take one step up. We want to address new markets. We want to work internationally. In the past, we worked in Africa for radio networks (oil companies or Football Africa Cup of Nations). Now with LTE, there could be more opportunities such as the one we have achieved there. What we have done in Africa was very well received. We have got some good references from the oil companies and private operators. Around the world, we have our technologies in the Vinci airports. In Asia and South Africa, we already have a few projects. We want to take more projects in the international scope, and our strategy is to deploy it step by step. We will climb slowly but each step is a good and strong step.
We have an extended experience in understanding our customer’s needs, and it is possible for us to dedicate this experience to other countries. 5G will allow many things to happen but we need to understand clearly the perimeters of 5G and all the possibilities there are with it. Then, we can think what would work best in France and the other countries, deploy a model, and address projects.
What are your suggestions and expectations for ZTE?
We can confirm that ZTE is a very good partner and helped us strongly in our development. Our success is also ZTE's. Our partnership is strong and we are happy to work so closely with them, with a very good mutual understanding. When we have questions, there are always quick answers. For the future and our new challenges, we will have to continuously work closely together to propose the next generation of development anywhere the need will be.
Nomotech, digital divide, Rural France