Orange hits green button on LTE-M network

Orange has unveiled its Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) network in France, with plans to launch in Spain and Romania by the end of the year.

Having launched its first LTE-M network in Belgium in May 2018, the French deployment will enable Orange to build new products and services in anticipation of boomtime in the IoT market. Technology will be deployed in each market dependent on the demand for particular services.

Orange will now begin offering services to all enterprise customers who have subscribed to the Orange full IOT offering, focusing particularly on logistical monitoring, telemonitoring, remote assistance and fleet management. The move underpins Orange’s efforts to diversify its core business, with the ‘connected economy’ high up on the list.

With France and Belgium up and running, plans to open up new networks in Spain and Romania, and other tests running throughout Europe, a pan-European offering does offer Orange an edge in the enterprise IOT game. Looking at the enterprise side of Orange, this is certainly an area which has been given attention in recent months.

Back in August, the cloud armoury was given a shot in the arm with the acquisition of  infrastructure and critical application services company Basefarm for €350 million. Alongside the additional skills, with a presence in Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, the pan-European ambitions are being met.

5G ROI is a no-brainer for us – Orange

5G is clearly critical for the digital economy of tomorrow, but the expensive job of rolling out the networks take a bit more cunning thought.

Speaking on a panel session at Total Telecom Congress in London, Yves Bellégo, Director of Network Strategy at Orange pointed out there is no debate on the ROI for 5G. It’s simple; 5G enables us to deliver data significantly cheaper. With internet traffic continuing to explode, and mobile usage heading north as well, why wouldn’t anyone want to invest in something which can make business operations cheaper.

But here is the clincher; rolling out these networks is an expensive job, and ROI still hasn’t be completely justified. Telcos will have to accept the ‘build it and they will come’ attitude, though trying selling that to accountants. As Takehiro Nakamura, General Manager of 5G Labs at NTT Docomo pointed out, 5G will not just be there overnight, the rollout out will be gradual and it will be years before the concept of nationwide if even close to a reality because of this very reason.

For 5G to realise its potential, there will need to be considerable thought to identify the services which can be offered from Day One. It isn’t going to be as simple as offering a sweeping portfolio of new services, with the progressive rollout which many telcos have in mind, with 4G and 5G working alongside for years to come, difficult choices will have to be made.

Fortunately, a lot of these services can be offered on 4G, though as Ramy Boctor, CTO of Vodafone Qatar, pointed out, the performance will just be better on 5G. Perhaps this will play into the hands of the telcos; limited supply and potentially high demand, a perfect recipe for making money.

This is perhaps a fact which is lost in the buzz and hype; 5G will be incredibly limited for years to come. The rollout will take time, upgrading existing sites will take time, densifying the network with new sites will take time. This is not something many people seem to be saying, but it is worth remembering.

Orange goes submarine with Google cable partnership

Orange has been announced as the latest partner to join Google on its monstrous mission to bulk out its connectivity infrastructure maze.

The telco will act as the French ‘landing partner’ for Google’s Dunant transatlantic submarine cable, which is set to come into operation in 2020. As part of the partnership, Orange will provide backhaul services to Paris, while also benefiting from fibre-pairs with a capacity of more than 30 Tbps per pair.

“I am extremely proud to announce this collaboration with Google to build a new, cutting-edge cable between the USA and France,” said Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange. “The role of submarine cables is often overlooked, despite their central role at the heart of our digital world. I am proud that Orange continues to be a global leader in investing, deploying, maintaining and managing such key infrastructure. Google is a major partner for Orange and this project reflects the spirit of our relationship.”

Announced back in July, Dunant (named after Nobel Peace Prize winner Henri Dunant) is Google’s first private investment across the Atlantic and supplements one of the busiest routes on the internet. The cable will be 6,600km long, connecting the west coast of France to North Virginia in the US. The cable is set to be the first to connect the two countries in 15 years.

While many organizations are investing in infrastructure through consortiums, Orange has invested in more than 40 submarine cables, few have taken Google’s approach in being the sole investor. It might be a more expensive approach, though Google will have more control over capacity and the route of the cable, perhaps giving it a bit of an edge over competitors. The weight of such investments have been putting some dents in the spreadsheets, the CAPEX column doubled during the latest quarterly earnings call, though it does put Google in a solid position.

From Orange’s perspective, the partnership will strengthen the telcos position to support the development of new uses for its consumer and enterprise customers in Europe and America. It will also be in a stronger position to provide services to wholesale market such as content-providers and third-party operators.

Q&A with Pierre-Francois Dubois from Orange

Pierre-Francois Dubois is the Director Marketing Products at Orange. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the Voice and Advanced Communications Summit 2018, where he is speaking about the new revenue streams and monetisation opportunities for voice and advanced communications.

How is the demand for Telco communications services changing and what is the place of the traditional Voice Telco offering in this ecosystem?

Because of mobile data, communications services tend to be unlimited which is why new business models need to be found to invest in enhancing these services. Nevertheless, I believe that operators will keep investing in voice services at least for the few years to come. Compared to messaging there are relatively limited levels of substitution of operator’s voice, even if it is more visible with international calls. Therefore, traditional Voice Telco remains something very important for the users and it is still also the simplest way for them to experience the quality of the network: drop calls and sound quality are associated with poor coverage or capacity limitations. Hence competition between Telcos has been a driver for investing on HD Voice, VoLTE, VoWiFi and it will probably remain true if we can find technologies that can enhance the voice service.

What has Orange identified as the most exciting new communication services opportunities and what is your work to develop and bring them to market?

Orange, like many other players and carriers, believe that business messaging is a major opportunity. The migration from SMS to RCS for businesses who want to interact with their customers on their smartphones is becoming a reality. We are currently rolling out RCS in several of our affiliates and like other Telcos, we have started experimenting with the potential of RCS business messaging with several brands. We believe this is the beginning of a new digital revolution which will be powered by AI, even if you don’t need AI in the beginning.

What are the new applications that are being developed by the Telcos to retain Voice revenues while stepping up their advanced communications offering?

With voice being unlimited, I don’t think that you can retain or recreate Voice revenues the way they used to be. The first goal is to remain relevant in the eyes of the customers, the new business models can be defined. As I explained, competition between Telcos has been the main driver to enhance the voice service and customers are still using our service. But this is not enough: we believe that we must go one step further and leverage, at least on Android where it is possible. The opportunity to replace the green button which is facing the customer on the smartphone with our own application, providing the customer with a full Orange experience -this is what Orange Telephone is aiming at.

You will be speaking at the Voice and Advanced Communications Summit on 9 – 10 October 2018 in Amsterdam on ‘New revenue streams & monetization opportunities for voice & advanced communications’. Can you give us a sneak peek at what your speech will entail?

Mobile apps were a digital revolution 10 years ago. Many among us believe that conversational commerce platforms like RCS associated with artificial intelligence and digital identity management will be the next one and that operators can play a role: we can develop bots for our B2B customers in this new ecosystem, we can develop new marketplaces, we can promote our payment solutions and our identity management to avoid fraud. All these monetization opportunities are B2B, but we first need to grow the RCS base.

What are you most looking forward to for the Summit and what has attracted you to attend the Summit this year?

Firstly, these Summits have a clear focus and it is a very good place to meet Telcos and vendors to check if the ecosystem is moving in the direction you anticipated. Also, this year should be a special year because we are anticipating the first 5G roll out for next year.
Join Pierre at the Voice and Advanced Communications Summit on 9 – 10 October 2018 in Amsterdam, where he will deliver a presentation on from LTE to 5G: how to support voice and minimize the risks?

Q&A with Stephane Proust of Orange

As we are fast approaching the Voice and Advanced Communications Summit 2018 we got in touch with some of our speakers – Stéphane Proust, a Senior Member of the Orange Group Expert Community. He’s heading the project for Orange Corporate in charge of the evolution of communication and real time services towards 5G (voice/video & messaging) his main objectives are to support Orange European Business Units for their trials & first 5G deployments and anticipate network evolutions for communication and real time services.

How is the demand for Telco communications services changing and what is the place of the traditional Voice Telco offering in this ecosystem?

The demand from our customers is evolving towards more rich and diverse services, with connected objects and new services such as banking services. But there are also fundamentals that do not change: our customers expect from us that we provide connectivity, speed, and high-quality voice. This is confirmed in all customer surveys that we conduct. So even if voice usage is not growing anymore, our voice service remains the fundamental basis of our service portfolio and a key indicator of the best carrier-grade quality of our networks – directly experienced by our customers or evaluated in benchmarks.

Could you tell us a bit more about your work at Orange Labs making for Voice offering available over 5G?

At Orange, we have always been active in research, standardisation and development to improve voice-based services. For example, we were early adopters of VoIP, for our residential customers. We were also early promoters of HD voice and the first operator to demonstrate international HD voice in 3G and we are now heading towards super HD voice…

More recently we deployed VoLTE in all our European operations. Today, my role is firstly to make sure that the standards are ready for voice and messaging support in future 5G environments and achieve end to end interoperability with devices. It is also to ensure that the path from circuit voice and VoLTE towards 5G is smooth, easy and cost-efficient for Orange’s network. Finally, it is particularly important to help Orange’s Business Units in France and Europe prepare for future 5G deployments and choose the best strategy for voice.

How far has your research progressed and how much further do you need to go before we start thinking about the reality to 5G for Voice?

There are several standardised options for 5G deployment with different levels of maturity in devices and network equipment roadmaps. The first deployments of 5G radio access still connected to 4G networks will not impact voice and messaging: voice will remain on 4G or 2G/3G. The full 5G promise with slicing capabilities will require a new 5G core network:  in such a full 5G environment the question in this case is not whether 5G will concern voice or not (voice service in itself does not need 5G) but how 5G users will simply be able to continue to make or receive voice/video calls or messages when connected to 5G. So we now need to prepare the solutions for voice on 5G for all future 5G services and devices and not restrict 5G to data-only applications.

You will be delivering a speech on ‘The roadmap of voice from LTE to 5G’ at the Voice and Advanced Communications Summit on 9 -10 October 2018, Amsterdam. Can you give us a sneak peek of what the attendees can expect to hear at the Summit this year?

My goal is to share the analysis conducted at Orange on how to support voice in future 5G environments and how to minimise the risks of the LTE to 5G evolution, taking into account the various options for 5G deployments and the different possible options for voice. It is also my goal to share views and get feedback from the industry on this. I hope this will be a real topic of interest for attendees since 5G will become a commercial reality very soon, at least in dedicated areas. So the question whether we could simply keep voice on 4G and exclude it from the 5G scope is not straightforward to answer…

There isn’t long to go until Summit. What are you most looking forward to this year?

There are lots of topics that have been developing for years and are reaching maturity now: 5G, but also RCS, multi-devices/multi numbers and more generally “multi-identities” which decouples voice service from single telephone numbers and SIM cards. At the same time, “telco” conversational services are more and more challenged by OTT services and the experience impacting revenue and usage. I really expect from this summit to get a good understanding of what the future holds in store for conversational services, what   the priorities and roadmaps of the ecosystem will be and how we can still capitalise on these assets and still enforce them.

 

Photo Stephane Proust (002)Stéphane Proust – Senior Member of the Orange Group Expert Community will be speaking at the Voice and Advanced Communications Summit 2018 on the 9-10th of October 2018 at Novotel Amsterdam City. It’s not too late to join us – grab your free operator pass here: http://bit.ly/2OAqC8S

Orange bolsters cloud game with €350mn Basefarm purchase

Orange has given its enterprise cloud business a shot in the arm after completing the acquisition of  infrastructure and critical application services company Basefarm.

The acquisition, which was initially announced back in July, is geared at reinforcing Orange Business Services’ (OBS) position in the cloud computing services market. Having been founded in 2000, Basefarm generated more than €100 million in revenue over the last twelve months helping companies gain more insight from their usage data. Orange can now add data management and analytics services to its portfolio.

“We are very proud to announce the acquisition of Basefarm, which will mark a major milestone in our international development,” said OBS CEO Helmut Reisinger, while announcing the acquisition in July. “In particular, the company’s integration will enable us to significantly extend our Big Data and critical application management services on a rapidly consolidating market.”

The acquisition will also extend OBS’ ability to offer access to public or private cloud infrastructure, as well as more complex automated services. Although a small slice of the larger Orange pie, OBS has been steadily growing over the last couple of years, both organically and through various acquisitions. Business & Decision is another business which was added into the OBS stable recently, with this purchase targeting the data services integrator market.

“We are very pleased with Orange’s decision to acquire Basefarm, a sign of our continued success in Europe,” said Fredrik Ohlsen, CEO of Basefarm.

“Orange is already a major player in the cloud services business and our two companies are very well matched in terms of our product portfolio, and also when it comes to geographical spread. Together we’re able to build a pan-European leader in cloud managed services, something which will benefit Basefarm and our customers.”

What is still unclear is the scale of redundancies as a result of the acquisition. As with every deal of this nature, there will be overlap in certain service areas, though no comments have been made as to how many of the 550 Basefarm staff will be integrated into the 1600 OBS workforce.

While Orange has continued to create a strong position for itself in the French cloud market, acquisitions like Basefarm will add credentials for international ambitions with its strong base in Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany. With the former head of the international business now sitting in the CEOs chair, this might not be the last bit of posturing across the continent.

Orange continues to bang convergence drum

Virgin Media might be struggling to live the convergence dream in the UK, though Orange doesn’t seem to be having any problems as it reports another positive set of results.

Total revenues for the first half came in at €20.2 billion, a year-on-year increase of 0.9%, while operating income grew much more favourable, an increase of 2.8% to €2.35 billion. While this might be the highest profit margin in the industry, Orange has continued to demonstrate it is building for the future investing another €3.36 billion in CAPEX, 16.6% of total revenues delivered over the six month period.

“The 1st half results showed accelerated growth across all the Group’s financial metrics,” said CEO Stéphane Richard. “Revenues grew in all our regions while the strong acceleration in the Group’s adjusted EBITDA, which rose 3.3% during the half, reinforced our strategy of differentiation on the basis of service quality and demonstrated our constant focus on operational efficiency.

“Our investment strategy in fibre and 4G is reflected in the sharp increase in our very high-speed broadband customer base. Orange now has 50 million 4G customers with 13 million in Africa, twice as many as a year ago. In fixed very high-speed broadband, the customer base continued to show particularly strong growth enabling us to reach 5.5 million customers, almost exclusively in fibre.”

Looking at the convergence strategy, the team reported an increase of 9% in convergent offers year-on-year, a total of 10.7 million customers, while the number of SIMs attached to these offers increased to 18 million. Orange often boasts about being the leading convergent player in Europe, and with numbers like these it is hard to argue otherwise.

Spain has continued to be a strong market for the business through this period, and following the conclusion of the spectrum auctions, it is looking to be in a solid position for the 5G race. During the auction, Orange Spain acquired 12 blocks of frequencies, paying €132 million, representing 60 MHz in the priority spectrum band to offer 5G services. Orange is now the only operator in Spain in reach a total of 100 MHz in this spectrum band, which it claims is essential for the development of the new ultra-fast mobile broadband technology.

Orange picks Transylvania for 5G FWA demo

Operator group Orange took its mate Cisco and Samsung on a road-trip to northern Romania to show off its 5G multi-vendor fixed wireless access skills.

Orange says the test is the first of its kind in Europe and is a key step in the development of 5G in the region. At its core it seems to be a classic FWA set up, but using 5G architecture and millimetre-wave spectrum. The radio base station of the virtualized access network connects through fiber to the virtualized Core network installed in the Orange datacenter.

It took place in a village called Florești, near the town of Cluj, which is apparently the capital of the province of Transylvania. 15 Orange residential customers got to live the 5G FWA dream, which also involved Samsung 5G ‘terminals’ (which seems to mean small cells in this case) and Cisco routers.

“This is a test which brings us closer to the future, an opportunity to better understand the way in which technology works in real usage environment conditions, the challenges that we can face while deploying new technology and the benefits it can bring to both our residential and business customers.” said Liudmila Climoc, CEO of Orange Romania (pictured, center).

Perhaps seduced by the prospect of encountering vampires, Iain Morris of Light Reading flew over to Transylvania to witness the demo first hand. And it looks like his wish was granted, in a way, because among the Orange execs he met was one Arnaud Vamparys. You couldn’t make it up! You can read more about his Romanian road-trip here.