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French mobile network operator (MNO) Orange has announced a number of 5G mobile network tests and pilots in Europe to support use cases around autonomous vehicles and support for fixed consumer broadband services.
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The operator, whose former UK consumer operation now forms part of BT through its incorporation into EE, has centred its 5G strategy on improved high-speed mobile broadband, high-speed fixed broadband, and applications around enterprise digital transformation.
“5G is truly going to revolutionise usages. It will enable mobile broadband speed up to 10 times faster than 4G, provide very high speed fixed access and will make possible new services that we are now starting to design and test with our partners,” said Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Orange director of innovation, marketing and technologies.
“This is the beginning of transformation that will affect the whole of our society and lead us towards a genuinely 5G Generation,” she said.
Orange’s first technical end-to-end test of a 5G network will begin in the northern French cities of Douai and Lille later in 2018, subject to approval from the French comms regulator Arcep. This will incorporate hardware from Sweden’s Ericsson.
Ericsson has also come on board to support testing of mobile network provisioning for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) – Orange has already signed up to supply connectivity to Utac Ceram, the French centre for CAV testing and certification.
This testbed will see an experimental mobile infrastructure deployed at the Linas-Montlhéry test track near Paris, to explore and test the necessary 5G functionality for CAVs.
The third test will take place in Romania, and will explore the possibility of using 5G to enhance, or even replace, fibre-based broadband networks for consumer users.
Orange said that where fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services have not been deployed, access solutions using 5G backhaul could be an option, particularly in suburban areas. Such a solution could also be used as a back-up option for businesses in case of issues with existing fixed networks, or for use in temporary projects. This pilot will take place later in 2018, with technical assistance from Cisco and Samsung.
At the same time, Orange will also team up with Nokia and German antenna specialist Kathrein to develop a smart antenna to manage 4G/5G connectivity. This solution, which currently exists only as a prototype, should be small enough to be installed on existing cellular towers and masts.
Orange is also announcing a partnership with Nokia and Kathrein for the design of a smart antenna that manages 4G/5G connectivity. This type of antenna, which is currently in the prototype stage, will be compact enough to be installed on existing mobile towers.
In the UK, the first lab test of an end-to-end 5G architecture took place in November 2017. Conducted by EE and Huawei, it delivered consistent download speeds of 2.8Gbps with sub-five second millisecond latency on a virtualised core, using hardware that is already commercially available.