Orange expands mesh Wi-Fi into Belgium, reinforces marine service capabilities

SoftAtHome’s mesh Wi-Fi now available for Orange Belgium customers while Orange ship begins undersea cabling survey work off coast of Sicily

Global telco Orange has revealed details of its enhancement of Wi-Fi services in Belgium and announced that a new dedicated ship belonging to itself and subsidiary Elettra is to ready to start performing marine surveys of new submarine cable routes.

In Belgium, the operator has engaged broadband, video and analytics software firm SoftAtHome to power its new mesh Wi-Fi offering. Since the technology’s initial deployment in February, Orange claims its Belgian customers have started to enjoy improved Wi-Fi performance, thanks to repeater packs, powered by Wifi’ON, designed to extend Wi-Fi coverage by making the network in the home smarter and independent of any specific gateway.

As Wifi’ON mesh Wi-Fi repeaters continuously communicate with each other, algorithms proactively decide on the best connection for each device. Each device within the home network is directed to the best repeater and to the best Wi-Fi channel to optimise band usage in real time.

SoftAtHome has also deployed its Eyes’ON product to manage Orange Belgium’s mesh Wi-Fi repeaters. Eyes’ON gathers and analyses data with machine learning technologies that adapt Wi-Fi optimisation mechanisms in real time. Eyes’ON provides actionable recommendations to Orange Belgium to improve customer experience at home and on the move. It examines the customer’s environment to provide essential information, diagnostics and guidance so that hotlines can act more rapidly and efficiently.

Thomas Parvais, head of product development and engineering broadband and TV at Orange Belgium, said: “According to a study we conducted recently, 90% of users consider Wi-Fi access in every room to be important or extremely important, and for 50%, Wi-Fi should also cover the garden or the terrace. It was therefore key to us to satisfy their desire for a very high-speed connection at home and a seamless Wi-Fi experience.

“We are delighted to reinforce our partnership with SoftAtHome. We have worked closely with their experts to improve algorithms, and the result is beyond expectation. Our mesh Wi-Fi combines a solution that guarantees a level of bandwidth and a powerful data analytics tool to ease our customer support in real time.”

At the same time as Orange’s mesh Wi-Fi was rolling out across Belgian homes, its ship, the Urbano Monti (pictured above), was rolling down the slipway at the port of Catania in Sicily after being refitted and restored. Orange announced the acquisition of the ship through its fully owned Italian subsidiary Elettra in September 2019.

It will be equipped to carry out various marine activities linked to submarine cables projects, particularly marine route surveys. Elettra and its French counterpart, Orange Marine, are recognised companies dedicated to marine services for submarine cables, operating worldwide.

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Surveys of marine routes are a key step in finding the right cable routes and ensuring the viability of the systems throughout their lifespan. These operations are carried out by companies that specialise in marine activities, such as Elettra, and require ships with the right equipment and skilled staff.

After passing numerous tests in the last days before the launch, the Urbano Monti is now carrying out her first survey operation in the Mediterranean for her customer, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN).

The Urbano Monti will be deployed to strengthen the position of Orange Marine and Elettra in the market of marine activities related to submarine cables, in addition to the traditional missions of cable installation and maintenance performed by the existing cable ships fleet.

Orange Marine and Elettra specialise in marine activities related to submarine cables, from the design and engineering phase up to the installation of regional or intercontinental links and the maintenance of existing cables. They currently claim to represent 15% of the installation and maintenance of the submarine cables market and their cable ships have laid more than 220,000km of optical fibre cables and carried out 550 repairs, some at a depth of more than 5,500m.

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