French telecom group Orange expects customers in France to start testing the first 5G devices under real conditions and with network equipment soon, Arnaud Vamparys, 5G sponsor and senior vice president for radio networks at Orange, told RCR Wireless News.
“In the pre-commercial phase, Orange is conducting end-to-end technical trials with different suppliers – in Lille and Douai with Nokia, and in Marseille with Ericsson – in order to test their respective technologies before the customer test phase,” the executive said.
“Our challenge as a global telco is to succeed in involving our clients and our ecosystem in the co-development of next generation services. We have announced 17 Orange 5G cities across Europe, including Lille, Nantes, Marseille and Paris in France,” Vamparys said.
The executive said that Orange is in the process of gradually deploying 5G on existing 4G sites across France.
“5G will be installed in four cities in 2019 and ready for commercial release in 2020, as long as frequencies and enough 5G smartphones are available. 2020 is not the finish line; it will actually be the start,” Vamparys said.
He also highlighted that Orange is working with several vendors, such as Ericsson and Nokia, in order to do advanced end-to-end technical tests during the pre-commercial stage.
Commenting on future 5G deployment across Orange’s footprint in Europe, the executive said that 5G will be installed in 17 European cities in 2019, spread out between Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Spain.
Orange is currently working with a number of compatriot businesses to develop future uses of 5G technology.
“In April, we announced joint innovation projects with French companies that are market leaders in key sectors of the economy, such as the manufacturing industry, energy or transport, and that have an eye on the future,” he said.
The telco is working with hi-tech manufacturer Lacroix Group to explore how 5G can be used within “Symbiose”, the prototype factory project from the Lacroix Group. These trials will involve setting up an indoor network to test ambient connectivity on the industrial site or optimizing production using automated vehicles and other vehicles connected through 5G.
Also, Schneider Electric and Orange are working together to evaluate the feasibility of opportunities brought by 5G in industrial production processes. From the end of 2019, an initial test will assess the value of 5G for real-time augmented reality solutions used by maintenance technicians at the Schneider Electric factory in Vaudreuil.
Renault, Orange and Ericsson have also announced their intention to work together on connected vehicles and 5G. This cooperation project will aim to measure the capacity of 5G to enrich communications between vehicles and their environment.
French telecommunications regulator Arcep recently launched a public consultation on its draft procedure for awarding licenses to use frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band.
The regulator said that the contributions to this public consultation, which will run until September 4th, will enable Arcep to finalize the procedure and the terms of allocation. Arcep will then submit its final text to the French government in the following weeks, with a view to allocating frequencies in the autumn.
French operators will have enough financial resources to deploy future 5G networks, since the government and telecom regulator Arcep are not looking at the upcoming spectrum auction as a way to obtain a high level of revenues, Orange’s deputy CEO and group chief financial and strategy officer, recently said during a call with investors, adding that, “there is a very strong willingness [from the government and local regulator Arcep]to have a balanced approach, which is going to get, of course, some fiscal revenues for government. But at the same time, and this is very important, the capacity for the telecom players to have sufficient space to invest and roll out the [5G] network.”
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