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Big vendors share the spoils as Orange names 5G SA suppliers

Orange has named the companies that will provide the kit for its standalone 5G networks in Europe and it is going with the big traditional telco vendors.

At a time when telcos are increasingly turning to smaller players and those from the IT space for their networking needs, Orange has chosen to split its 5G standalone rollout between Ericsson and Nokia, with Oracle picking up its 5G core signalling and routing.

Specifically, Ericsson will supply Orange’s 5G SA core network in Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland and Spain, while Nokia will cover France and Slovakia. Nokia will provide its Subscriber Data Management (SDM) for all markets, while Oracle’s signalling and routing role also spans Orange’s entire European footprint. Orange said it will carry out a software update of its existing equipment for other network functions, particularly the radio.

Whether or not other suppliers will be added into the mix remains to be seen. Three years ago Orange was talking up 5G SA testing with ZTE; it now seems pretty unlikely that the Chinese vendor will get a look in. However, last summer the telco shared details of a 5G SA fully end-to-end experimental cloud network in its home market, as part of a push towards zero-touch, partnering with half a dozen tech firms many of which operate outside of what could be described as the traditional telco vendor space. Mavenir took care of the Open RAN, Casa Systems a cloud 5G SA core network, HPE for SDM, Dell the servers and RAN hardware, ONAP software in orchestration, and Xiaomi smartphones.

Some of those names could reasonably have expected to play a broader part in Orange’s pan-European 5G SA rollout, but have clearly been left out in the cold. Others we might see pop up again.

In the meantime, Orange is moving on with its standalone 5G rollout. This year is all about preparation, testing, and ultimately deployment, it says, with commercial launches starting in 2023. Presumably there are different timescales attached to the various markets, but we can be assured that Orange will tell us about the launches when they happen.

For now, it says it is “mobilising its experts” and setting up a network integration factory for testing purposes. It is also waxing lyrical on the benefits of 5G SA, or full 5G, if you prefer.

It is by now no secret that to realise the benefits of 5G that have been hyped across the industry for so long, telcos will need to make the move to standalone. Higher uplink data rates and super-low latency will bring new use cases for consumer and business customers, while capabilities like network slicing, for example, will facilitate customer-specific levels of service.

Orange picked up on the latter, noting that network slicing will enable it to push on with private network solutions. It outlined its options, including creating virtual private networks on its public network, or offering hybrid private networks, which use shared equipment in the telco network and dedicated kit at the customer premises.

5G standalone represents a new world of connectivity solutions and potentially a raft of new revenue streams. Interesting then that Orange has chosen old school equipment vendors to help it get there.

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