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Orange switches to disaggregated switches

French operator group Orange has teamed up with Edgecore Networks to start using switches running on open-source software.

The announcement was made at the Fyuz event, run by the Telecom Infra Project, at which fellow European operator group Vodafone made a bunch of Open RAN announcements yesterday. This one concerns the switches involved in access points of presence for enterprise customers. Orange is using its own network operating system based on SONiC (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud) open source code, running on Edgecore hardware.

“We are pleased to team up with Edgecore to launch our network disaggregation transformation,” said Jean Luc Vuillemin, EVP of Orange International Networks. “This joint work enables us to drastically transform the way we build and upgrade our networks. It allows us to move away from off the shelf and locked-in solutions to in-house developed solutions relying on our network developers’ expertise. Upskilling our teams to master our software allows us to regain full control of our networks and therefore manage upgrades in a fast, cost-effective and sovereign way, while providing an improved and reliable service to our customers.”

“Edgecore’s switches running SONiC software provide the high-capacity throughput required for access networks,” said Heimdall Siao, President of Edgecore. “And, by utilizing Edgecore’s carrier grade and proven robust designs, Orange is able to deploy solutions in the most demanding of carrier networks. This successful experience in Orange’s network proves that disaggregated open networking solutions are robust and capable of handling the most demanding of network environments.”

Much of the language used in this announcement is consistent with the broader Open RAN narrative. ‘Orange’s move towards disaggregation allows for more flexible and cost-effective designs, faster deployments with a simpler IT integration, and the ability to utilize a single operating system on networking equipment from different hardware vendors,’ it claims.

Orange is heralding this move as a ‘bold step’ but you can’t have it both ways. Is it a brave piece of pioneering risk-taking or a no-brainer, given all the claimed benefits of disaggregation? That is a bit of a false dichotomy, given that the results of change in technology strategy can’t be assured in advance, but you have to assume Orange is confident it’s a safe bet. Either way, this does represent another incremental step towards opening up the telecoms kit ecosystem.

It should be noted that Orange isn’t the only recent adopter of this sort of kit. Vodafone today announced it is using Edgecore disaggregated cell site gateways. These link the RAN to the core network and will apparently allow Vodafone to more cost-effectively upgrade 4G cell sites to 5G and bring new ones online. The initial rollout is in Turkey, using software provided by German vendor ADVA.

 

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