New French model for public-private 5G networks will prevail, says Orange
Orange told 5G World in London yesterday (July 12) that private networks are too expensive, and that hiving off spectrum for the industrial sector to run private networks will throttle the development of 5G networks.
The French operator is trialling campus-style networks with industrial players in France, allowing for enterprises to manage private networks using an extension of its public LTE network.
Arnaud Vamparys, senior vice president of radio networks at Orange, said: “We are creating a private extension of the local area network on our public network for enterprises. It’s a new model, which we have to invent together [with industry].
“Enterprises are very eager to get multi-service connectivity where they can adapt the quality of service to their business processes. And, as a mobile operator, we are very eager to give enterprises access to this powerful 5G platform.”
He added: “To create a private network is quite costly. When you start with the public network, and create a private extension, you can really benefit from existing 4G and 5G coverage, and just add the equipment you need on the local side. It’s what we are promoting right now.”
Vamparys shared a panel with Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group chief executive at Verizon, who also warned the business case for specialist private networks may not stack up.
“What’s interesting if you get to campus and other areas is, if you have niche deployments there, you have a closed network, and you have a device that works brilliantly for a specific use case. But the challenge with that is it is very hard to do scale,” said Dunne, a former O2 UK chief executive, in a rapid-fire commentary on the transatlantic disjunct on 5G between the US and Europe.
Orange’s plan for self-contained enterprise networks is akin to Deutsche Telekom’s model for so-called campus networks, which it claims offer enterprises full control over their LTE operations, but use spectrum that also serves for general usage.
The company is running campus trials with various customers to understand their requirements, and how they may be represented in service-level agreements around network provision and management. Vamparys said: “We are still on a learning curve. We need to work with some first customers on greenfield and existing industrial sites. But you will see this French model will spread.”
Its industrial networking trials include work with Nokia at the vendor’s site in the Paris region to test enterprise 5G use cases. Orange has also detailed working arrangements with Lacroix Group, Schneider Electric, Renault, and SNCF, variously.
A spokesperson commented: “We already have public coverage and what we’re therefore looking at is how we can add private equipment inside – it’s a private extension of a public network whether that’s a 4G or 5G network. If you invest in a private network, you are isolated, and the truth is that objects and people are all moving.”
Vamparys was quizzed by panel host Karim Taga, a managing partner at Arthur D. Little, about the challenge to the operator community from industrial giants like BMW (his reference) that wish to own and manage network connectivity for all of their supply chains.
Taga referenced the shifting regulatory environment, notably in Germany, where the country’s leading industrial lights are playing with 80MHz of prime 5G spectrum in the 3.7G-3.8GHz band, ahead of a final decision on its allocation. He also noted “a filing from May 7 to July 7”, detailing the interest of Air France and Aéroports de Paris, among others, in 20MHz of spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band.
“What is you answer to that, as a mobile operator?”
Vamparys responded by highlighting the lost opportunities of WiMAX, among other technologies. “We need to avoid spectrum fragmentation. Each time we did it, there was no investment after that. We are in a position to give our business customers access to our network. And the good news is the 5G standard works for that,” he said, referencing the technical capabilities in advanced LTE and 5G networks to make swathes of the public network private effectively.
“We have all the technical possibilities. That’s why we have signed lots of co-innovation – with all the names you mentioned.” The implication was BMW is working with Orange, among many parallel projects, to hammer out what industrial 5G will look like.
Vamparys said the investment case for private networking is better, when combined with the case for standard commercial 5G and new (fixed-wireless access) 5G home broadband.
“We need a complementary approach for these three main applications – mobile broadband, fixed-wireless access, and specialised B2B service applications. Today our main investment as Orange is in fibre. We want to keep our number one position with FTTH (fibre-to-the-home). And that is a key part of 5G, because 5G is just a shell for fibre,” he said
“To add 5G in the main cities is a ‘no-brainer’. We have demand there. What’s interesting is this geo-market [for industrial 5G deployments]. We are analysing this with industry, in France – about where to put 5G first.”
He added:“On the enterprise side, we have a very big opportunity with 5G. There will soon be more data created by enterprises than by consumers. For enterprises, it’s really about being able to handle very rapidly the data they produce. 5G is excellent for that. After the first wave of digitisation with sensors, 5G will really help enterprises to use cloud services in real time.”