Investing and innovating in networks
Connectivity to its customers anytime, anywhere. We are now the leading operator in seven of our eight European operating countries, a position we’re aiming to maintain with our 5G network. We are also looking to offer smooth and enriched digital experiences via network virtualisation, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and data.
Leading the European market in 5G
5G (opens in a new window) will make new video formats (4K, 8K and 360°) more accessible and promote new experiences using virtual, augmented and mixed reality, for instance. It will enable new everyday applications across all sectors of the economy and smart cities. It also offers an alternative way for people to access very high-speed internet in countries where fibre infrastructure is not widespread. Throughout Europe, Orange trialled a number of real-life usage scenarios (opens in a new window) to demonstrate the way in which this technology will completely revolutionise the customer experience. In 2018, we conducted an initial field test alongside Samsung and Cisco for very high-speed internet in the home via 5G to complement existing fibre in Romania.
In partnership with Ericsson and the vehicle testing group UTAC CERAM, we also trialled 5G in smart and autonomous vehicles. At the same time, Orange opened its 5G Lab to its partners so they could test their products and services. In addition, Orange Polska and Orange France successfully trialled the first commercial 5G base station to verify equipment capacity and integration into the network. 5G will be gradually rolled out across existing 4G radio sites so that it will eventually be operational in 17 cities around Europe in 2019, including in France, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Romania. This will allow thousands of customers to get a first taste of 5G technology in 2019, before it is commercially available from 2020 onwards when smartphones are compatible.
Data throughput 10 times greater with 5G than with 4G
Network virtualisation and automation
We are looking to make our networks virtual in order to satisfy the growing demand from our business customers for flexibility and responsiveness in the face of changing uses. These changes to the infrastructure will, among other things, improve agility and the speed of implementation and adaptation. The technology separates the hardware from the software, transforming network functions into software, which makes it possible to automate, program, and control the network in a centralised and remote way. We are therefore deploying infrastructure with standardised servers that host network functionalities as software. We have already started to virtualise networks in our operating countries and will continue to do so over the coming years, in particular with cutting-edge 5G services. Orange Business Services supports many of its business customers through the process, such as Siemens AG, which adopted an SD-WAN network in 2018 to bolster the quality of its communication activities across its 1,500 sites spread over 94 countries (opens in a new window). At the same time, we are working to automate the design and operation of our networks by using probes, robots and AI algorithms to improve the quality of how we monitor and manage the customer experience. Such features are described as a Self-Organising Network (SON) and are deployed in state-of-the-art mobile networks.
Setting the bar in Europe for the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a major focus in the Group’s diversification strategy. We aim to establish a solid presence across the entire value chain of connected devices and appliances, including connectivity solutions, distribution, value added services and data management. We support our individual (opens in a new window) and business customers (opens in a new window) by deploying networks that meet the needs of connected devices. Built using LoRaWAN™ and LTE-M (Long-Term Evolution for Machines) technology, they help in particular to minimise the amount of energy used by connected devices and appliances by improving network access from inside buildings. LoRaWAN™ technology covers 95% of the population in mainland France, five cities in Slovakia and several areas of Romania. Orange is also pursuing its strategy to develop LTE-M in Europe; after its initial launch in France (opens in a new window), Romania and Belgium, it will be available in Spain in 2019. These developments in our 4G network make it easier to transfer enriched data to mobile devices inside buildings and at underground locations. We also sell connected devices in our bricks and mortar and online points of sale, and offer people in Europe services in the connected home, healthcare and well-being. Lastly, Orange Business Services supports its business customers through their changing ways of working to boost efficiency and innovation by offering end-to-end IoT solutions adapted to their field. In 2018, Orange Business Services launched “Smart Tracking”, a range of solutions to locate and track goods and equipment, both inside and outside buildings.
million devices and appliances
are connected to our networks
use our LoRa® network
for Public Initiative Networks
cities in Europe will be equipped
with 5G in 2019 in France, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Romania
will begin commercial deployment
Extending our footprint to boost inclusion
In France, Orange is committed to increasing very high-speed network coverage in all regions in order to reduce digital exclusion and inequalities. This is how we help improve inclusion in sparsely populated areas through Public Initiative Networks (PINs) – projects run by local authorities to put a communication network in place, most often using fibre optics. Orange is proactively pursuing an ambitious investment strategy, sometimes drawing on its own equity, which is proving successful. In 2018, five new fibre optic operating agreements were signed with local authorities in France (Bourgogne-Franche- Comté, Gironde, Vienne-Deux-Sèvres, Orne and Var). We were also selected following a tender process in Guadeloupe, the only PIN project with submarine cable. At end-2018, our PINs had installed 345,000 connectable sockets – 100,000 more than the previous year. In terms of mobile networks, since the Orange Connected Territories programme was launched in 2016, nearly 10 million people living in rural and sparsely populated areas have gained access to Orange 4G. Furthermore, as agreed in the New Deal signed with the French State in January 2018, we are working alongside other operators to deploy a further 5,000 4G sites in rural areas and 500 sites to improve 4G services. In line with this vision to reducing the digital divide, the Kanawa submarine cable (opens in a new window) connected in 2018 makes it possible to anticipate increased traffic and diversify connection points in order to ensure a better quality of service in the French overseas territories of French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe.