Orange goes live with 5G in Romania

Orange has joined the 5G fracas, launching the connectivity euphoria in Romania with a very attractive exclusive partnership with Samsung.

As the market leader in a fast-evolving market, Romania is a sensible option to lunch the Orange assault on the 5G world, but it also happens to be one of the regions where valuable spectrum assets are plentiful. With 115 MHz in the 3.4-3.6 GHz band, the much-heralded ‘Innovation Band’, this is a very comfortable position to launch 5G services.

And while the team are remaining tight-lipped on the European 5G strategy, spectrum will largely dictate how 5G services are driven over the coming months. Deputy CEO Ramon Fernandez highlighted the availability of spectrum and the success of auctions will largely inform the teams switch-on strategy over the next few months, though do not expect any major announcements before the end of the year.

Although Romania is not a market which attracts headlines consistently, there are some very interesting elements to this launch. First and foremost, the exclusive partnership with Samsung.

This is a partnership which works both ways. Samsung devices can only be sold by Orange, and Orange 5G tariffs can only be run through Samsung devices. It might sound unusual that two companies would want to limit this potential in this manner, but considering Orange is the market share leader for 4G (roughly 40%) while Samsung is the devices market share leader (estimates range between 50-55%), there are attractive gains for both parties.

The second interesting element of this announcement is the focus on Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). Orange has never been shy about its convergence ambitions, the success of bundling is evident in numerous markets but with no fixed assets in Romania it becomes difficult. There is a wholesale agreement in place with Telecom Romania, however this is far from an idea position.

With 5G, FWA becomes a much more apparent opportunity to compete with the fibre services which are being offered by competitors. It certainly isn’t perfect by any means, but if Orange can deliver the promised gigabit speeds over the air, there will certainly be demand from increasingly speed obsessed consumers.

The final twist to this story is an aspect which could count against the telco. After performing a number of speed tests across Bucharest, it became very apparent, very quickly, that the 4G network is excellent, providing speeds which even the most demanding consumer could not make use of. In delivering such eye-watering speeds over 4G, one should ask whether this weakens the selling point of 5G. As attractive as 1.2 Gbps download speeds are, who actually needs that much power now?

The initial data tariffs do look attractive, €25 for unlimited data, Orange TV, Deezer and number sharing eSIM features across multiple devices, but in creating such an comprehensive 4G network in Romania, Orange much have weakened the underlying argument for 5G.

This is of course until new services become available, though CTIO Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière highlighted the purpose of these new services is to demonstrate how the user experience can be enhanced. As new services emerge, whether they be in entertainment or the connected world, new features will be introduced. It does create a bit of a sense of purgatory, but this is a better looking 5G launch than most.

The killer 5G app will be the one which changes behaviour – Orange

It is highly unlikely the telcos will be able to find the silver bullet to justify all 5G investments in a single swoop, and what we’re talking about today is unlikely to cut it.

There were a couple of applications which defined the 4G era, though 5G is gearing itself up to be much more complex. Justifying the expense on 5G infrastructure will be much more of a long-burn for the telcos, as one of the pre-requisites will be the alignment of all the moving parts such as the app economy, fibre deployment, changing consumer behaviour and IOT embedding itself into the world.

This is the complicated message which Patrice Slupowski, SVP Digital Innovation & Chief IoT Officer at Orange put across this morning, and the cornerstone of this vision will be data.

“The apps which will make the biggest difference will be the ones which change behaviour,” Slupowski said at Total Telecom Congress this week.

Perhaps a perfect example of how this can be brought together takes a look at health and lifestyle apps which are becoming increasingly popular throughout society.

There is of course a horde of new devices, products, applications and services which track and measure everything from the number of steps you take each day through to the depth of sleep throughout the night. These are simple usecases of connectivity, but when you start to use this data more intelligently, creating services (both private and public) from the insight gathered it becomes a lot more interesting.

This is where investments in IOT, fibre and mobile connectivity (both 5G and LTE-A) become more apparent. In this example, consumers are becoming more informed about their lifestyles and activities, but the knock-on effect could be more predictive and maintenance-based healthcare regimes. Practitioners can keep track of patients without unnecessary visits to clinics, and on the occasion a visit is necessary, data is significantly more accurate allowing for more personalised healthcare programmes.

Healthcare is the example here, though this should be applied to every angle being worked with a 5G swing. Whether it be in an industrial context for smart factories or connected harbours, or on the roads with intelligent signalling or autonomous vehicles. These are usecases which fundamentally change behaviour, either consumer lifestyle or the way a business runs.

This is perhaps why 5G will be a slow-burn to generate ROI. When you combine 5G with IOT, the cloud, AI and the ever-increasing computational power being offered as a commodity, the real value of data starts to be seen. This is when 5G will start to change the way society and enterprise function, and when it could be seen as a winner.

France pushes forward with trials of much-hyped mmWave airwaves

Much has been spoken about the promise of mmWave spectrum bands, and France has announced 11 trials to separate the wheat from the chaff in 26 GHz.

Launched by Agnès Pannier-Runacher, France’s Secretary of State to the Minister for the Economy and Finance, and Sébastien Soriano, Chair of the Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority (Arcep), the trials will sweep the country, covering a handy number of different usecases, while also bringing in an attractive number of different technology companies.

It’s a comprehensive approach few other countries could match-up to. Interestingly enough, several of the projects are being led by enterprise companies, or organizations that do not specialise in telecommunications. To some, it might not sound like the most sensible approach, though it will ensure business demands are priority number one; the problem with telcos is that they specialise in telecommunications and very little else.

The first project will be led by Universcience, at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, and will focus on public engagement. The La Cité des sciences et de l’industrie 5G trial platform will showcase use cases to the public, through open events, as well as temporary and permanent exhibitions.

Although many in the general public would claim to have heard of 5G, few will actually understand what it is. Education programmes are critical not only to ensure the public is made aware of progress, but also to encourage the next generation into the STEM subjects. For any nation to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the 5G era, the skills gaps will have to be closed.

The second, at the Vélodrome National, will bring together Nokia, Qualcomm, Airbus and France Television to understand how 5G can aid sports media. Low latency and increased bandwidth will be key topics here, as will the integration of artificial intelligence for operational efficiency and augmented reality to improve consumer experience.

The third trial will pair Bordeaux Métropole, the local authority, with Bouygues Telecom and will aim to capitalise on public lighting networks to deploy new infrastructures.

The Port of Le Havre will lead the fourth trial alongside the Le Havre Seine Métropole urban community, Siemens, EDF and Nokia. This initiative will explore 5G applications in a port and industry-related environments, with use-cases such as operating smart grids and recharging electric vehicles.

At the Nokia Paris-Saclay campus, trials will be conducted in a real-world environment, both indoors and outdoors, thanks to Nokia 5G antennae installed at different heights on the rooftops, and in work areas. This project also includes a start-up incubator programme.

The Paris La Défense planning development agency and its partners have submitted another interesting usecase. With 5G CAPEX budget strained already, the Government department will test the feasibility and viability of owning infrastructure and selling turnkey access to operators. This might erode coverage advantages which some telcos might seek, though in assuming ownership (and the cost) of network deployment, the 5G journey might well be a bit smoother in France.

The seventh trial will pair Bouygues Telecom with France’s national rail company, SNCF, at the Lyon Part-Dieu train station. Tests will focus on consumer applications, such as VR and AR, as well as how transportation companies can make best use of data and connectivity to enhance operations. The eighth trial will also be led by Bouygues Telecom, focusing on industrial IOT in the city of Saint-Priest.

Orange will oversee two trials at part of the wider scheme, with the first taking place in Rennes railway station with SNCF and Nokia. Once again, part of this trial will focus on consumer applications, making waiting a ‘more pleasant experience’, with the rest focusing on industrial applications such as remote maintenance using augmented reality.

The second Orange trial will focus on various 5G use cases in heavily trafficked areas, such as enhanced multimedia experiences for people on the move and cloud gaming. This trial is supposed to be generic, and another opportunity for start-ups to pitch and validate their ideas in a live lab.

“The 26GHz spectrum band will allow us to explore new services based on 5G,” said Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of Orange. “We are aiming to set-up experimental platforms that will stimulate collaboration on these new use-cases across all economic sectors.”

With the spectrum licenses live from October 7, the trials are now officially up-and-running. Each of the projects must have a live network operational by January 2021 at the latest and have to make it available to third parties to perform their own 5G trials.

This is perhaps one of the most interesting schemes worldwide not only because of the breadth and depth of the usecases being discussed, but the variety of companies which are being brought into the fray. Although the telco industry does constantly discuss the broadening of the ecosystem, realistically the power resides with a small number of very influential vendors.

This is a complaint which does seem to be attracting more headlines at the moment. If you look at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) being championed by Facebook, the aim is to commoditise the hardware components in the network, while decoupling them from software. Ultimately, the project is driving towards a more open and accessible ecosystem.

France’s initiative here could have the same impact. By designating enterprise companies and local municipalities as leaders in the projects, instead of the same old telcos and vendors, new ideas and new models have the potential to flourish. This looks like a very positive step forward for the French digital economy.

Orange Spain not going to be rushed into 5G fracas

Although it does appear to be incredibly popular to fight for the ‘first’ title in various markets across the world, one telco which is not buying into the necessity for speed is Orange Spain.

At the 5G Core conference in Madrid, Tomas Alfonso, Head of Product Engineering at Orange Spain, said the telco was taking its time despite pressure being ramped up by other telcos. The team are currently trialling 5G at various locations throughout the country, though there are no plans to speed up the commercial launch, which is currently set for some point in 2020.

“I would summarise our work in two words; testing and learning,” said Alfonso.

“We do not launch the technology because of the technology. We launch the technology to offer a better customer experience.”

This is the challenge which is being presented for the industry right now, according to Alfonso. Many telcos are launching 5G services because they can launch 5G services, not necessarily because it is the best thing for the business or the consumer.

Although we have been talking about 5G for years, realistically the ecosystem is still immature. Stand-alone standards are still embryonic, spectrum has not been aligned perfectly, telcos are still fibering networks, the 5G core is non-existent and the radio technology is not good enough.

The elements are present, but that is not to say the ecosystem or underlying network is ready for 5G. It is a slightly pessimistic view on the state-of-play, but it is difficult to argue with the rhetoric which Alfonso has presented. The radio equipment is an excellent example Alfonso used to illustrate his point.

Irrelevant as to which vendor a telco has selected, the equipment which is being deployed on base stations is still first-generation. Right now, the equipment is too big, its too heavy and it consumes too much energy. These are all challenges which were perfectly predictable, however Alfonso believes the products which will be brought to market next year will be much more appetising. There will be a stronger business case for 5G deployment when the equipment has been fine-tuned.

Although this does sound like a logical argument, it is clearly not shared by everyone; telcos are aggressive launching 5G networks. In the US, all four telcos now offer 5G connectivity, while the three telcos in South Korea have all launched as well. Only O2 is missing from the UK’s 5G party, Deutsche Telekom is up-and-running in Germany, Telecom Italia and Vodafone in Italy, and both Sunrise and Swisscom in Switzerland.

The view of waiting until the opportune moment is clearly one being cultivated by the minority, as we suspect the hundreds of other telcos which haven’t launched simply aren’t ready. Orange Spain might be one of the very few playing the long-game.

What is worth noting is that there is no perfect way to enter the 5G world. Those who have already started offering services will grab the early adopters, but they might irritate a few customers with expensive tariffs and limited coverage. Those who wait might have a more established network though they will be playing catch-up. The launch will always be a compromise.

Looking at the work which Orange Spain is doing right now, the team has 50 live trials across the country.

Another point which the Orange Spain team will have to get their head around is the idea of network sharing. This will not necessarily prevent the team from launching 5G services, though it will impact the rollout strategy. Reports have emerged suggesting the team is in conversation with Telefonica and MásMóvil over non-critical 5G sites.

The idea of network sharing is becoming increasingly popular with telcos around the world, and it is easy to see why. During her own presentation, Lucy Lombardi of Telecom Italia quoting research from McKinsey, suggesting network sharing agreements could save as much as 40% of deployments costs for a telco. 5G is going to be a very expensive business, and any opportunity to reduce the financial burden will be strongly considered.

Some might disagree with the position of Orange Spain, but first doesn’t necessarily mean best. Orange has shown itself to be one of the more considered, long-termist and successful telcos in Europe in recent years, so it would be a fair bet to have confidence in the team.

HTC taps Orange for new CEO

Struggling Taiwanese device maker HTC has finally found a full-time CEO by tapping into the European telecoms scene.

Former Orange exec Yves Maitre (pictured, no relation) takes over as CEO with immediate effect. He replaces owner and Chairwoman Cher Wang, who stepped in as CEO more than four years ago after deciding to throw in the towel on smartphones.  Wang has spent that time pivoting HTC towards virtual reality and the Vive headset, as well as some other connected devices.

Maitre was most recently EVP of Consumer Equipment and Partnerships at Orange was well as being a member of Orange’s innovation technology group, with a focus developing disruptive revenue opportunities, so his appointment is consistent with HTC’s new direction. Wang and the HTC board have clearly committed the company’s future to emerging mobile devices.

“When I took over as CEO four years ago, I set out to reinvent HTC as a complete ecosystem company and lay the foundations for the company to flourish across 5G and XR,” said Wang. “So, now is the perfect time to hand over the stewardship of HTC to a strong leader to guide us on the next stage of our journey.

“I am truly delighted that Yves is taking the reins; he has a long association with our company, and he shares our passion for innovation. I firmly believe Yves is the right leader to continue to lead HTC to its full potential.”

“HTC has long been a bellwether for new technology innovation and I’m honoured to be selected by the Board of Directors to lead the next phase of HTC,” said Maitre. “Across the world, HTC is recognized for its firsts across the mobile and XR space. I am incredibly energized to grow the future of both 5G and XR alongside HTC employees, customers and investors.  We will set out immediately to continue the transition from building the worlds’ best consumer hardware to also building complete services around them to make them easy to manage and deploy.”

XR refers to mixed reality, which covers all forms immersive digital experience, including augmented reality. The advent of 5G is a potential boon for this kind of tech, especially when the low-latency stuff starts to kick in, as it will enable wireless VR without the kind of lag that makes people throw up. Recruiting someone from the operator side appears to be an acknowledgement of that.

HTC was arguably the most successful Android smartphone maker initially, establishing close ties to Google and shipping in impressive volumes a decade ago. But then much bigger players like Samsung and Huawei got their acts together and HTC simply couldn’t compete with their deep pockets and economies of scale. It will attempt to replicate that feat with XR and hopefully will have a better strategy for fending off the big guys next time.

Orange hints it might be ready to take Romanian fixed assets off DT

Last week, reports emerged Deutsche Telekom had been given the green-light to sell its fixed network stake to Orange in Romania, and the French telco isn’t quashing the rumour.

With a 54% stake in Telekom Romania Communications, DT has a healthy position in the market, though it appears the country is no-longer part of the grand plan. Orange is reportedly in-line to purchase the fixed network stake, the remaining 46% is owned by the Romanian Government, and as you can see from the statement below, it is not denying the rumours.

“The Orange Group’s strategic ambition is to be a leading convergent fixed and mobile operator in Europe, and we are exploring all potential opportunities in Romania to further implement this strategy,” the company stated.

“Our analysis is still at a preliminary stage and no decision has been taken by Orange. In any case, such a decision would be subject to mandatory regulatory approvals.”

The reports in local press claim DT has received approval from the Romanian Government to sell its stake in one of the country’s biggest telcos. For Orange, this does look like it is a sensible move. It is the leading mobile provider in the country, though adding the fixed assets through such an acquisition would certainly make a more complete offering.

The convergence business model is one which is being firmly grasped across the Orange group. There are of course regional twists in terms of execution, though the over-arching strategy is fully-embracing convergence.

What is worth bearing mind is that there is enough nuanced language to add an element of doubt, but it does appear an announcement of some kind might be on the horizon in the not too distant future.

Coopetition is becoming permanent fixture of 5G world

It might be a management consultant phrase, enough to have some clawing their eyes out, but coopetition is quickly becoming the norm as telcos drive towards the elusive goal of ROI.

The latest firms to enter into the new-era relationship are Orange and Proximus. Announced this week, the duo has signed a term-sheet to enter into a mobile access network sharing agreement by the end of the year. The scope of the partnership will be to meet raising demands in terms of mobile network quality and indoor coverage.

“The signing of the term sheet is an important step in reaching a final mobile access network sharing agreement between Proximus and Orange Belgium,” said Dominique Leroy, CEO of Proximus. “It will allow us to embark on a faster and broader 5G roll-out while improving mobile network capacity and coverage to the benefit of our customers and while keeping a strong and differentiated customer experience.”

“Mobile access network sharing is a trend in Europe which benefits consumers, as it enables more efficient investments to cope with the increasing data consumption,” said Michaël Trabbia, CEO of Orange Belgium. “The timing of this mobile access network sharing agreement is important as it will allow us to accelerate 5G roll-out, while bringing significant environmental benefits by reducing the combined energy consumption by 20%.”

This is a very simple partnership ultimately. The two telcos will enter into a shared infrastructure agreement, it seems both passive and active infrastructure is included but will rely on their own spectrum to differentiate on customer experience. This does appear to be an increasingly common strategy across the European continent to drive the commercial appeal of the connectivity business.

Another example of such business is in the UK, where the telcos have paired off to create joint-ventures to own and manage passive infrastructure in certain regions. CTIL and MBNL are the JVs in question and allow the four MNOs to share the expensive job of civil engineering but differentiate their offerings on the active equipment being installed on the masts and spectrum assets.

One of the reasons such partnerships are becoming more common across Europe is scale. With more than 100 different telcos across the continent, the telcos cannot achieve the same subscriber bases as counterparts in the likes of the US and China. This impacts procurement strategies as well as the ability to drive ROI in the mid-term.

Bearing this in mind, densification and network rollout into the rural communities becomes a problem. 5G is eventually going to force the telcos to acquire more mobile sites in the urban areas, to deal with the traffic increases but also to compensate for shorter spectrum ranges on higher-frequency bands. The rural environments are of course less commercially attractive due to the lower population density, but there are both commercial and regulatory demands to prevent a digital divide.

“The deal between Orange and Proximus is just the latest in a series of network partnerships designed to keep a lid on costs and accelerate deployment,” said Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “This is particularly important at the start of the new 5G era as operators continue to scratch their heads over the business case for investment.

“Although the approach could limit opportunities for operators to differentiate based on connectivity, it could free up investment in other areas such as content, vertical markets and new services. This can only be to the benefit of the consumer.

“We should expect further industry collaboration going forward. This could include the possibility of more innovative models such as shared networks between all operators in a single market or ownership of assets such as spectrum and infrastructure by independent third parties or even government.”

Another recent example of this type of coopetition is in Japan. Last week, KDDI and Softbank came to an agreement to share infrastructure in rural environments. This initiative is also geared towards reducing the burden of capital expenditure in delivering 5G to every corner of society. TIM and Vodafone Italia are another duo exploring the coopetition play to tackle the issue of rural 5G connectivity.

Elsewhere in the telco world, coopetition is emerging in the services game.

There are numerous examples of telcos buddying-up, for most cases with telcos outside of their commercial jurisdiction, to jointly develop services for 5G epoch. As it stands, 5G is nothing more than a ‘bigger, badder, faster’ version of 4G, though if the financial promises are to be realised differentiation is needed. For most, this means venturing into the murky world of enterprise services.

Last month, SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom announced a partnership which would develop various technologies to improve indoor coverage and explore low-latency media services. A long-standing partnership between DT and Orange has led to the emergence of Djingo, a smart-assistant to challenge the dominance of the OTTs in the smart home.

Coopetition might sound like a buzzword fit for boardrooms of coffee drinkers and overpaid management consultants, but it is a trend which is slowly emerging in the telco world. And in some cases, it might just be the perfect solution to drive towards the long-overdue profits.

Orange CEO cleared of fraud

The interminable Tapie saga, which threatened to topple Orange CEO Stéphane Richard, has finally concluded with everyone acquitted of wrongdoing.

Richard (pictured) was accused of complicity in a fraud that involved the French state handing over €404 million to French businessman Bernard Tapie back in 2008. At that time Richard was Chief of Staff for Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who was eventually found guilty of negligence in creating the circumstances for the payout and then not challenging it.

Part of Lagarde’s defence when she was put on trial back in 2016 was that she didn’t really know what she was doing because Richard didn’t furnish her with sufficient information. This led to the current trial, which investigated the role Richard and a few others played in the whole affair.

The reason for the payout was a claim from Tapie that he got ripped off when he sold his stake sportsware company Adidas to Credit Lyonnais, which is partly state-owned, in order to avoid a conflict of interest when he became a government minister back in 1992. The bank subsequently sold on the stake at a profit, leading Tapie to allege that it had deliberately undervalued it previously.

Tapie sued Credit Lyonnais and eventually Lagarde pushed the case to a closed arbitration panel which made the €404 million award. Not only was the matter deemed to be badly handled by Lagarde and her team, but the award was eventually reversed amid suspicions of fraud. This case seems to reverse that decision once more, so it looks like Tapie will get to keep the cash after all.

This is obviously good news for Orange, which had no involvement in any of it but has had Richard at the helm for eight years, during which he seems to have done a decent job. The whole thing still stinks of an establishment stitch-up, however, with French taxpayers handing over an enormous amount of cash to a rich former politician to compensate him for a botched business deal.  Richard will obviously be relieved too, but s Lagarde’s recent appointment to head the ECB indicates, he may have escaped any negative consequences even if he had been found guilty.

Orange gears up for the Tour de France but no mention of 5G

This weekend will see the Tour de France begin in Belgium and while it might be a chance for some to enjoy a tipple in the sun, for Orange it is a monstrous task. But it does seem to have forgotten to plug 5G.

Delivering a connectivity solution for this spectacle is somewhat of a difficult task. The race covers 3,460km over 21 stages, starting in Brussels, winding through 219 municipalities in France before ending in Paris. Four stages will be held in the Pyrenees and another four in the Alps, while numerous see the race snake through rural France. These are not necessarily the easiest environments to provide connectivity in.

The other factor you have to take into account is this is not necessarily a ‘build once’ concept for network infrastructure; the tour route changes every year, making permanent infrastructure redundant in numerous areas. That said, it does provide the commercial drive to bridge the digital divide in some rural environments.

In some places, it makes just as much commercial sense to rollout permanent infrastructure to the small towns as it does to make it temporary in the more secluded areas. This year, 11 locations will benefit from a permanent fibre installation, while 37 municipalities visited by the Tour and 182 municipalities located within 10km of race will also benefit from 4G upgrades.

This is not to say Orange should wait for the Tour de France to pass through a village to address the digital divide, but it is a nice by-product for some communities.

One massive omission from any of the materials is 5G. With 5G buzzing in almost every corner of the connectivity world, it would be a fair assumption it would be here as well. In other sponsorship properties Orange owns, Roland Garros for example, 5G has been the focal point of communications, but it has been missed out here.

Admittedly, this is a different and more complicated environment to deliver the super-fast ‘G’, but it does seem to an oversight; there are various different usecases which could be plugged by the telco here. This is not to say Orange should wait for the Tour de France to pass through a village to address the digital divide, but it is a nice by-product for some communities.

In 2017, we had a behind-the-scenes tour of the event, with Orange offering some insight into the efforts made to deliver connectivity. And its not as easy as it sounds. Alongside the Orange technical team which has to move with every stage of the tour, the telco has to provide connectivity for roughly 120 trucks housing various broadcasters, shifting 20km of fibre and 65km of power cables each day.

The figures quoted above were accurate two years ago, now you have to take into account consumers are more digitally defined, using a broader range of apps and digesting more data on a daily basis. Here’s a bit of a taste of the complications Orange faces this year:

  • 7,000 hours broadcast by 190 countries worldwide
  • 10 to 12 million spectators on the roadside
  • 8 million unique visitors to the website
  • 32 km of cables deployed at the finish line during the event
  • 350 temporary phone lines
  • 32 mobile 3G/4G mobile relays to strengthen mobile network coverage
  • 250 km of specifically deployed optical cables

In the ‘village’ at each stage of the Tour, Orange has said it will deploy eight separate wifi networks, with an equivalent rate of 200 Mbps and able to handle more than 10,000 simultaneous connections. This is the easy part, the village doesn’t move all day, but providing continuous connectivity while the race is progressing is a different challenge.

This is a marketing opportunity for Orange, it gets to show how wonderful it is at solving complicated problems, but there is certainly an upside for some in the rural communities who could see a connectivity boost. Assuming the race passes through your quaint village of course.