Orange set to extend experimental 5G network to Spain

Orange is upbeat about how its experimental cloud-native 5G standalone network has performed to date, and as such plans to extend the concept to Spain in the near future.

The operator group also revealed that it is extending an ongoing trial with Amazon Web Services (AWS) into this year to demonstrate the feasibility of running network functions over a public cloud, enabling the pair to further investigate the potential of automation through AI, and to evaluate vertical use cases. And it is ready to hit the on button on Open RAN.

Orange launched its so-called Pikeo experimental network in mid-2021, at the time describing it as the first of its kind in Europe. It’s an end-to-end cloud-native 5G SA multi-cloud network deployed in Lannion, in north west France. It is now using Mobile World Congress to present the results of this experiment.

There’s not a lot in the way of hard data, but it is clear the operator has seen progress in some key areas: deployment is 300 times faster and anomaly-detection 100 times faster than with legacy networks, it said, thanks to the use of automation and AI. There are also positives for energy consumption, network slicing and security.

Pikeo 5G SA is multi-cloud, enabling private 5G networks for enterprises, either via on-premises Orange telco cloud infrastructure, or on AWS, or indeed a hybrid approach.

“The experience gained from the Pikeo project and the expertise of Orange teams will be leveraged in the new Mobile Private Network cloud experimental offer launched by Orange Business,” said Laurent Leboucher, Orange Group CTO and SVP Orange Innovation Networks.

“The experiment also developed Orange’s know-how in integrating technologies from various partners such as Dell Technologies, AWS, Casa Systems and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, as well as Amdocs, Arista, Mavenir and Xiaomi and clarified what this means in terms of skills and transformation,” the telcos itself said.

With integration being a potential stumbling block when it comes to rolling out open, disaggregated networks, that experience is invaluable for the operator.

Indeed, Orange also highlighted the growing maturity of Open RAN technologies, something it has been able to show with Pikeo, and an opinion it shares with major European rival Deutsche Telekom; the German incumbent has just announced it plans commercial Open RAN launches in Germany and elsewhere in Europe this year.

It looks like Orange is in a similar place. It aims to launch commercial Open RAN sites in rural Romania later this year and says it is confident that the technology is now ready for initial deployments on operational networks. Like Deutsche Telekom, there is no concrete timeline for Open RAN. But we’re there, or thereabouts.

The operator is also ready to go further with Pikeo, but again at an undefined date. Having launched in Lannion, Pikeo is running over two locations in France and is being used by internal employees, the telco noted.

“The trial will be extended soon to a third site in Spain for internal use,” it said.


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