We recently caught up with Orange's Arnaud Vamparys to discuss the opportunities the ongoing 5G rollout offers network operators, ahead of our upcoming virtual event 5GLIVE.
1. What has been the biggest success of 5G rollout so far?
Despite the disruptions brought about by the covid pandemic across economies and societies, we have been able to continue to launch 5G in five of our European countries. This has proved particularly important at a time when connectivity is proving indispensable to so many people. Launching 5G has enabled us to bring additional capacity to urban areas where 4G is heavily used and it is helping to anticipate the demand and opportunity for developing new uses and innovation.
Our industry ecosystem has also played a significant part in helping to make 5G more accessible to consumers. For example, consumers now have easy access to a wide range of 5G compatible smartphones, at different prices, and this is helping to further democratize 5G and give people the benefits of speeds of up to 3 to 4 times faster than they had previously.
The pandemic has also accelerated business demand for better connectivity and new services, both across fixed and mobile services, and our B2B customers are recognizing the new uses and services that can be developed to aid in their economic recovery and future growth.
2. What commercial opportunities does the rollout of 5G offer operators?
For consumers, 5G offers speeds up 3 to 4 times faster than 4G. This paves the way for new immersive mobile experiences, combining 360° augmented and virtual reality. But alongside these new types of experiences, 5G enhances and opens up a whole plethora of new useful services that are being developed for consumers that will enhance their everyday communication, from entertainment and content through to how they manage their activities, be that how they access education, training or health services through to how they might manage their work.
On the B2B and wholesale markets, 5G – combined with edge computing, artificial intelligence and IoT – helps businesses accelerate their digital transformation and exploit data when it is produced. This will open a world of possibilities for all sectors, including manufacturing and industry, healthcare, media, transportation, utilities, just to name a few. This is the reason why Orange has followed a co-innovation approach with businesses in Europe since 2019 to develop the future uses of 5G. We are only at the beginning of the journey of what new services 5G will inspire and create.
What is important to keep in mind is that the deployment of 5G also enables a significant step towards greater ecological progress in many industries. It gives companies, including operators, the means to drastically reduce the energy and material consumption of the services provided, and streamline operations so that they generate minimal impact on the environment.
3. How can operators best overcome the deployment challenge?
The greatest barrier for operators at the moment is the lack of access to the necessary spectrum – 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies – required to deliver 5G. Without spectrum, the full benefits of 5G simply aren’t possible. For Orange, this is what we are waiting for in some European countries.
At a macro level, a European economy that is favorable to our sector and therefore pro-investment in very high broadband, fixed and mobile networks will help to support the development of a vibrant European telecoms ecosystem, and accelerate access for citizens to the latest technological innovations - in terms of networks and services.
To deliver the EU Digital Decade objectives, we need a regulatory framework and competition policy that supports private investment and in particular voluntary network RAN sharing agreements. They allow for cost-efficient and a paced network roll-out, with a much greener usage of resources. We have to look at new ways of partnering or working within Europe to promote and support operators’ investments. This could also include ensuring a balanced and fair competitive environment in Europe for telco players, by stimulating demand with infrastructure funding and with passive infrastructures sharing.
Orange wants to play a role with the creation of its towerco called Totem.
Globally, the aim is for Europe not to be left behind in relation to other global geographies. The digitalization of Europe across business and society is key to remaining competitive and relevant within today’s global environment.
We welcome the European Commission’s Digital Compass.
4. What steps should be taken to encourage consumer buy-in to 5G?
Our primary belief is that consumers need to be assured of a tangible and obvious improvement in their quality of experience as this will encourage the adoption of new technologies and services. The user tests that we have carried out on our pilot 5G deployments have proved this as we have measured levels of customer satisfaction in 5G that are twice as high as in 4G.
In the last decade, Orange has been the leader regarding 4G quality and our objective is to achieve this with 5G for the next decade thanks to technologies like Massive-MIMO used in 5G intelligent antennas.
It also remains essential that the services and offers we develop are relevant for the markets in which we operate. In our various markets, we are adapting our offers with larger bundles and with more SIMs to adapt to the evolution of customers’ usages.
As part of our commitment towards a circular economy, we have also launched ambitious plans to accelerate the recycling, taking back and refurbishing mobile phones.
And we’re continually working with our ecosystem partners to continually innovate and progressively introduce new digital services for our customers in their evolving daily lives.
5. How do you expect the 5G ecosystem to continue to develop over the next 5 years?
What is, in my view, one of the most exciting prospects about the development of 5G is that we are at the cusp of building a new 5G ecosystem that is embracing all sectors of the economy and not only the ICT sector and the telecoms players.
We are supporting the development of a strong European ecosystem of suppliers around Open RAN technologies. We see Open RAN technology development as an important means to build more agile and more flexible mobile networks, able to further bring innovation in terms of network quality and customer satisfaction in the 5G era.
In fact, we are just at the beginning of this new chapter and we want to be the catalyst of this revolution. Our new media campaign « The most innovative thing about 5G is what we’ll do with it. » was designed specifically to promote this point : Orange wants to raise the general public’s awareness about the various uses that can be made possible by 5G, and to demonstrate the positive impact of this technology to each sector. They are only limited by their imagination.
However, to make this a reality requires greater cooperation within our industry than ever seen in the past because digitalization is taking place across every industry, every sector and almost at every level of daily life.
Greater cooperation on innovation is taking place at various levels with other operators, across industry, academia, and government as well as with content providers, edge computing solution providers, equipment manufacturers, and connected object manufacturers in order to foster the development of interoperable environments to deliver on the promises of 5G, and foster the emergence of end-to-end ecosystems; for example, around immersive experiences like XR or extended reality.
On our part, to foster and accelerate the development of innovation, we announced the opening of a network of 9 Orange 5G Labs in France and in Europe in 2021 to enable players to understand, test, prototype 5G bringing uses to life with our support and expertise.
To hear more from Arnaud, please join us for 5GLIVE on 18 May - tickets are free.