CTO Spotlight: Emmanuel Chautard, Orange Romania

CTO Interviews

Romania is a successful and pioneering market for Orange Group as its CTO, Emmanuel Chautard, explained to Annie Turner.

Why is Romania such an important and special market – the first and only country in Europe where Orange has launched consumer 5G services?

It was as a consequence of the work and research our teams have been doing since 2017, including collaborating with start-ups and all equipment suppliers on powering innovative projects such as live stem cells printers, and deploying the first 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) live test with clients in Europe.

The involvement of Orange Romania in European [Union] R&D projects – Horizon 2020 initiative (MATILDA, SliceNet, 5G-EVE and 5G-VICTORI) – is equally important. The company contributes both to the development of 5G and its standardisation.
 
To what extent is your success due to your mobile network coverage?
Since the beginning, our focus was to make the benefits of top internet speeds accessible to a larger number of people. This has been the key theme of our network strategy for the past two decades and it is paying off. We have invested over €3.5 billion in Romania in the past 22 years.

At the end of 2019, over 98% of the country’s population and 100% of the urban population had access to the largest 4G network in Romania. Furthermore, 53% of the population can access the 4G+ network that offers improved speeds up to 500Mbps. These numbers are backed-up by several network certifications including Ookla Speedtest, which recognised our network as having Romania’s Widest Mobile Coverage.
 
How do you meet the demands of Romanians’ high data consumption?
The national average for mobile traffic per user is 3.4GB per month, but for our customers this rises to about 7GB, well above the European average. The 4G/4G+ network is a key pillar for Orange. We will continue to invest in its development for consumers and businesses. The 5G network integrates with the other mobile networks and provides improvements, while enabling continuity with the previous generations.

Faster internet speeds and new technologies will unleash an increase in data consumption. We see it in our customers’ behaviour, especially when it comes to video consumption and the demands of 4K content.

The arrival of 5G will open incredible new opportunities and applications that will generate an exponential increase in data consumption. We look forward to meeting this demand and to the technological advances that it will enable. We contribute actively to the creation of tomorrow’s services that can use the full potential of 5G through co-innovation with our business customers, as well as with all suppliers and start-ups through a dedicated programme called Orange Fab.
 
Could you tell us more about the 5G roll-out plans?
Launched initially in three cities, we recently deployed 5G in Brasov and Poiana Brasov. This year we will focus on other big cities in Romania and consolidate coverage in Bucharest, Cluj and Iasi. We will expand the 5G network with the spectrum
we have, while preparing for the 5G tender that will take place this year for the all-important radio licences in the 700MHz band.

We look forward to seeing new 5G use cases for the benefit of customers and the Romanian economy.

Why has your convergence strategy worked so well in Romania?
Romanian customers are price sensitive, but enjoy easy to use services and having an abundance of resources. That is why Orange’s convergent packages offer value for money; customers can enjoy TV, fixed internet access and mobile services in one package with one invoice. Orange is present in 42% of households, and one out of every two Romanians uses at least one service from Orange.
 
What advice could you offer to your peers among Europe’s CTOs?
Stay aware all the time to anticipate the right changes in operation. Never stay in your comfort zone. Listen carefully to the customers’ voices (internal and external). Always remain calm and optimistic.
 
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Within Orange Group I have collaborated closely with some outstanding managers on tough projects. They gave me the best illustration of what proper management means and how work can be stimulating and meaningful.

Authors like Dan Millman provided good lessons applicable to business and for professional development. These are accessible through the film Peaceful Warrior, which I recommend.

My family and my friends, as well as some colleagues and partners, have the most impact on me. They inspire me to develop