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    Orange opts for Nokia and Ericsson to deploy 5G RAN in mainland France


    Orange made the decision after issuing a request for proposals in early 2019 followed by several months of testing.

    Both vendors are long-term industrial partners of the Orange group and will provide a package of products and services for 5G deployment across the country. The agreement includes antennas and associated professional services.

    Region by region

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

    Nokia will initially support Orange’s 5G commercial launch by updating the SRAN network with software upgrades as a first step in transitioning the RAN towards 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 where Ericsson already provides 2G/3G/4G on the RAN. It will deploy 5G RAN products and solutions from the Ericsson Radio System portfoli.

    Implementations are to begin as soon as possible so that the Orange France 5G network will be ready to launch 5G services when the frequencies are made available during 2020.

    Specifically French

    This approach to upgrading the RAN is in sharp contrast to Vodafone Group’s, which will roll out Open RAN across its European opcos, and Telefonica too is an Open RAN fan.

    Orange France has said its 5G strategy is to address the specific needs of industries with private networks tailored to their specific requirements first, then general business customers, with consumers in the third wave.

    The initial French 5G spectrum auction is scheduled for later this year: the ground rules were published by the regulator, Arcep, last December after a lengthy consultation. It is the last major European economy to hold 5G spectrum auctions.

    Huge challenge

    Fabienne Dulac, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and CEO of Orange France, stated, “For Orange, the deployment of 5G represents a huge challenge and is one of the main priorities of our Engage 2025 strategic plan.

    “We are delighted to be pursuing our partnerships with both Nokia and Ericsson, two key long-term partners, in order to develop a powerful and innovative 5G network. 5G will enable the development of new use-cases and new services, and will provide an enriched experience for our customers – both in the consumer and business segments. Through these agreements, Orange reaffirms its ambition to being network leader.”

    Trusted relationship

    Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, stated, “This deal builds on our long-standing trusted relationship with Orange and will deliver a superior experience for businesses and consumers alike.”

    His comments came in the same week that the UK designated Huawei as a high-risk vendor and restricted its presence in the full-fibre and 5G networks, and the European Union launched its delayed guidance on high-risk vendors in telecoms infrastructure.

    Orange has not ruled out using Huawei outside its home market.