The French telco aims to launch full 5G commercial services in 2020

MUNICH, GERMANY- Fixed wireless access technology will be the main driver of French telecom group Orange’s 5G rollout, the group’s SVP of quality operations and performance Roberto Kung said in a keynote presentation during Huawei Operational Transformation Forum 2018, which was held in Munich this week.

The executive said that the initial goal of FWA deployment will be to close current fixed broadband coverage gaps. Kung said Orange is initially focusing on consumer services because it needs more capacity. However, in the future, the telco also plans to start considering use cases beyond the consumer market, including expanding its mobile broadband coverage and deploying massive IoT services.

Kung said that in general, operators are already well prepared for the challenges presented by a new generation of mobile technology. The SVP highlighted the fact that 2G technology was a challenge because it was an all-new technology; 3G brought the complexity of adding IP technology into the mobile network; and 4G offered clear obstacles in the form of Voice over LTE and Voice over Wi-Fi.

“We need really to prepare our operation for what will be a while new level of complexity,” the executive said.

Orange expects to announce its initial 5G launch cities across Europe in the coming months. Kung confirmed that Orange aims to roll out initial 5G services next year when the first compatible smartphones become available. However, the firm is targeting 2020 for the full commercial launch of the new technology.

The executive also noted that a challenge for the firm is differences in spectrum throughout Europe.

Earlier this year, Orange had announced plans to extend 5G tests to greater Paris area and Île-de-France. The telco named Paris, Châtillon and Linas-Montlhéry as the next zones to host Orange’s new 5G tests.

In Paris, Orange expects to introduce a platform designed for 5G demonstrations in the Opéra district where its Orange Opéra megastore is located. This 5G test will take place next year, the telco said.

In the coming months, Orange will offer its partners the chance to test innovative products and services in a 5G laboratory at its Orange Gardens site in Châtillon. The telco said that this facility will offer a very low-latency connection with speeds faster than those available via 4G. These tests will focus in particular on 5G services for the general public, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, communications in an immersive environment and 4K/8K video. 5G services for companies will continue to be addressed in co-innovation projects at the dedicated Paris-Saclay platform, Orange said.

The telco has been testing 5G technologies in the cities of Lille and Douai. Earlier this month, Orange said it had received authorization from telecom regulator Arcep to use spectrum in the 3.7 – 3.8 GHz frequency band in Marseille.

Orange will carry out these new technical tests in Marseille using 5G equipment from its partner Nokia.

The French government previously said it expects at least one major city to have commercial 5G services by 2020 as one of the key initiatives of the country’s 5G roadmap.

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