Nicolas Gouhier

Orange unveils plans for French 5G roll-out

Two years after gaining spectrum for 5G services in its home territory, the mobile network operator reveals first French cities for 5G deployment using 3.5GHz frequencies

Almost exactly a year after first indicating its strategy for the roll-out of next-generation networks across its key European territories, Orange has revealed its plans for the roll-out of its 5G network in 15 French municipalities, with, it said, quality of service its priority.

Orange announced that as of 3 December 2020 it will roll out 5G in Nice, Marseille, Le Mans, Angers and Clermont Ferrand. By the end of the year, more than 160 municipalities will be covered with 5G.

On 1 October 2020, during the auction for 5G spectrum in France, Orange obtained the largest share of the frequency blocks involved, with 90 MHz of spectrum. The 5G deployment focuses mainly on these new 3.5GHz frequencies and may be supplemented by the use of 2.1GHz frequencies. Orange said that only 3.5GHz frequencies allow a true 5G experience with fast browsing, reduced latency and almost instantaneous download speeds.

The operator added that the 3.5GHz 5G launch brings speeds up to three to four times faster than 4G to meet changing customer needs, and so will see the company fulfil its role of a leading operator by providing what it claims will be the best possible support for the evolution of French consumption patterns, allowing them to benefit from the best possible network quality, even in the densest areas.

In the deployment, Orange has chosen to initially cover areas that are already heavily used to avoid any risk of saturation. It notes that between September 2019 and September 2020, data usage on its core network and that of its Sosh contract-free offer had increased by 40%, carrying a risk of saturation of the current networks by 2022. This is why it said the use of these new 5G frequencies were the best answer for the future.

By contributing to the digitisation of French companies, Orange predicts that 5G will also be a powerful lever for competitiveness in France, thanks to, among other things, connected objects and artificial intelligence.

“This new technology is a breakthrough innovation that will allow all of our customers, both individuals and businesses, to benefit from unprecedented quality of service and to develop new uses,” said Stéphane Richard, chairman and chief executive officer of the group. “The deployment will be done gradually and in a constructive dialogue with all local authorities, in parallel with our efforts to expand coverage of the French territory in 4G, Orange is committed to offering the best to its customers to meet their growing connectivity needs, thanks to more efficient technology that is more energy efficient.”

Read more about Orange 5G

In January 2020, as it laid out its roadmap across Europe for the year ahead, the operator highlighted the power of convergence and the need for ecosystem partnerships, and two months later, Orange France contracted Nokia and Ericsson to provide it with a range of products and services to support the roll-out of its 5G network over the country.

The partnership with Nokia is focused on the west and south-east regions of France, zones where Nokia already supplies 2G, 3G and 4G on the mobile radio access network (RAN).

Nokia will supply technology from its end-to-end 5G portfolio, including single radio access network (RAN) technology, automation tools, network management solutions and associated professional services.

It will initially support Orange’s 5G commercial launch by enabling the roll-out of its SRAN network to 5G through software upgrades, streamlining the initial steps to build 5G. It will also introduce 5G New Radio (5G NR)-based AirScale hardware, and software for the new 5G frequency bands.

The partnership with Ericsson is focused on the Ile de France, north-east and south-west regions, zones where Ericsson already supplies 2G, 3G and 4G technology on the mobile RAN.

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