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Who cares about London? Doha is where it’s at for smart cities

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While many in the industry are fighting to compete in the battle to the bottom, Orange has taken a slightly alternative route; entering the services arena.

That’s not to say Orange isn’t competing in the traditional telco market, it certainly is, however, according to Béatrice Felder, CEO for Orange Applications for Business, diversification is one of the true means of success for the telco.

Diversifying into the services arena is an ambition which we have seen in multiple telcos, but it seems Orange has cracked the formula. Felder overseeing a healthy smart cities business, but in Poland the team has launched a fully-fledged bank, the French team is currently tackling financial regulations in its domestic market after buying Groupama Banque (keep an eye out in the next couple of months for a launch), and in Romania the team are dabbling in energy as well.

Specifically in the smart cities arena, the team are taking a slightly alternative route. Although many telcos are targeting the pin-up cities of the world, places like London have so many different governing bodies and boroughs, getting one concise strategy for the entire city can be a nightmare. Tie onto that aging infrastructure the whole situation has the potential to be awkward.

“The infrastructure is no-where near ready to take on such projects and it is always going to be slow and painful, as you have to retrofit. There are cities in the Middle East and Asia who are getting it right first time. These are the projects we want to be involved in.”

Orange is chasing after new cities which are creeping up all over the world, or new districts which are being built. Marseille is a perfect example where work is underway to create a smart district which can be expanded to the rest of the city in time, but perhaps a bigger win is in Doha.

Orange Business Services recently signed a deal with Meeza , a Qatari managed services provider, to create a new smart city development in Doha, Qatar. Msheireb Downtown Doha is undergoing a complete regeneration project, allowing the pair to build the smart city from the ground up, with Meeza in charge of the infrastructure, and OBS dealing with everything else, such as the applications and the portals.

It’s quite a significant project with more than 500,000 sensors being installed in the city, covering a wide range of services from smart operation of buildings, to security and automated waste collection. Orange has also designed and operates a range of Smart Applications which will allow citizens to engage with community services and make online payments, as well as support smart energy management and data analytics services.

In places like Doha, one of the objectives of the smart city is to attract talent. Cities such as London or New York have no problem attracted talented youngsters or entrepreneurial businesses because of the city itself, but places like Doha have to work a bit harder as there isn’t the ‘celebrity’ appeal. A connected city is an attractive proposition for a digitally native organization which is looking to settle down and expand. London or New York can’t compete in this light.

Orange may be fighting against the tide in the traditional telco arena, much like the majority of its competitors, but it certainly has got a head start in the services segment.


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