RAN sharing and convergence juice up Orange for 2020

Telco Orange’s roadmap for Europe in 2020 reveals the power of convergence and the need for ecosystem partnerships

As it gears up for extended value-added, fibre-based offers and to start commercial 5G services, beginning with its revitalised Romanian subsidiary, global telco Orange has revealed an ambitious roadmap for 2020.

At a presentation in London, Ramon Fernandez, delegate chief executive officer of finance, performance and Europe at Orange, highlighted the performance of the key business areas in Europe – France, Spain, Belgium, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Poland – which he said was a dynamic region with “great” prospects for the Orange Group as a whole.

The markets of France, Spain and Poland contributed revenues in 2019 of €18.2bn, €5.3bn and €2.6bn respectively. As an indication of 2020 prospects, Fernandez added that of the so-called E6 countries, the European territories not including France, growth would match that of the whole of Africa and the Middle East region.

The European region is set to see the return of growth for the company’s enterprise business. Looking at individual territories, after what was described as years of struggle, Orange Poland was now back to growth driven by fast progress in convergence. Orange Spain was said to be a very solid number two service provider in a market dominated by incumbent Telefónica. Convergence was also a winner in the Iberian country with such business accounting for around two-fifths of overall service revenues in 2019.

Looking towards 2020, Fernandez noted that business’s strategic proposition would be centred around a number of key pillars, the principle being reinventing operating models. This, said Fernandez, would be achieved through enhanced connectivity and a more valued infrastructure – namely, a fixed and mobile infrastructure that would support new 5G and fibre services.

First out of the gate would be Romania, and Orange Romania CEO Liudmila Climoc confirmed the country’s roll-out plans were on track, beginning with the cities of Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Iasi. The launch will see the introduction of exclusive services such as a number share service, which allows users to use the same phone number on multiple devices without requiring a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. It will also include the first HD Voice Plus service in the country, which offers an improved quality of voice calls.

In somewhat of a blow to Orange’s 5G aspirations in the country, political matters have delayed the roll-out of a next-generation infrastructure in Belgium. Fernandez revealed that 5G won’t arrive in the country by 2021 at the earliest, and specific localised issues have arisen in Brussels as regards to questions of EMF regulation. That said, Orange also revealed that it was working with the Port of Antwerp to introduce a standalone 5G network that could improve operational efficiency in what is Europe’s second-largest port.

By 2023, Orange plans to market fibre services to 70 million household in Europe, either on its own or on third-party networks. Leading the charge in 2020 will be Poland, where the local business has a target of five million connected homes by the end of the year. It will also maintain its investment efforts in Slovakia following up on existing investments and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity.

Fernandez revealed that the first challenge for the company would be to acquire by auction the sector resources in the relevant countries. The executive assured that all of the Orange Europe countries would have a 5G play by the end of 2020 at the latest.

That said, he cautioned that Orange would take what he called a rational approach to investments, and that presence would be deepened by the industry’s ability to offer services. Key to establishing this ability would be radio access network (RAN) sharing. The company cited Spain and Belgium as examples of where the company was sharing RAN with Vodafone and Proximus respectively.

Looking across the technology stack, Orange said that big data and artificial intelligence (AI) would be at the heart of customer offers while transforming go-to-market offers to meet the strategic processes. Orange accepted that to meet its goals it needed to simplify its offers, streamline customer journeys and improve conversion funnels.

From a TV perspective, compelling content was regarded as a both a key acquisition and retention tool. The company now has 2.7 million TV customers in Europe (excluding France) and it will spend 2020 growing this line to meet legacy direct-to-home (DTH) and over-the-top (OTT) services. Key to its strategy going forward strategy will be to form local partnerships.

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