Home5GOrange to open nine 5G labs in Europe, with strong Industry 4.0 focus

Orange to open nine 5G labs in Europe, with strong Industry 4.0 focus

France-based telecoms operator Orange has said it will open nine ‘5G labs’ in Europe in 2021, for local enterprises to collaborate with the firm to bring [enterprise-oriented] 5G use cases to life”. Seven sites in France, and one each in Belgium and Romania, have been earmarked; the first, in Paris, has already opened. 

The agenda, at the outset, is to drive 5G development in the Industry 4.0 space, in particular, as well as in smart cities and general enterprise. Orange said the new labs will host local authorities and local companies, “regardless of their sector”. But certain of them notably, the facilities in Lyon in France and Antwerp in Belgium – will be dedicated to industrial 5G, by default, because of the nature of local industry in both cities. 

The Lyon lab will be located at the Digital Campus Region (Campus Région du Numérique) in the district of Charbonnières-les-Bains, a new €50 million industrial research and training park, part-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, plus support from the likes of Siemens, Minalogic, Digital League, and ENE. Lyon is a major industrial heartland in France, home to the likes of Bayer, Babolat, Renault Trucks, and Schneider Electric.

The new lab in Belgium will be located near Orange’s existing Industry 4.0 campus in the Port of Antwerp, and focus on 5G for augmented worker or critical communication systems. Orange recently announced new partners and use cases to test private industrial-grade 5G at the port, and said the port testbed will inform its wider industrial 5G strategy, as its enterprise division, Orange Business Service (OBS), looks to offer private 5G on a “global scale”.  

Besides, a lab is to be set up in the company’s new Customer Innovation Centre, run by enterprise division Orange Business Services, in the Cœur Défense skyscraper in the west of Paris, and will be dedicated to major multinational enterprises. The Romanian lab, in Bucharest, is a partnership with the University Politehnica of Bucharest, and tasked with fostering development of commercial projects, research, and innovation. 

Elsewhere, the new labs will work with local authorities and local enterprises across a broad range of enterprise use cases, defined only by the interests of the local parties. The other locations in France are: Lille, Marseille, Rennes, and Toulouse, alongside the already-opened lab in the Paris region of Châtillon. All labs will be opened by the end of the year, the company said.

Michäel Trabbia, chief technology and innovation officer at Orange, said: “5G will drive business competition and regional development. This is why Orange is involved in a co-innovation approach focused on 5G to create the uses of the future. Having a local presence close to these players is a key part of the Orange 5G Labs initiative, to support the digital transformation of economic players and to help everyone take advantage of 5G’s potential.”

The French government has just announced funding for new national industrial 5G projects, as parts of its France Relance (France Relaunch) package. It has also raised alarm bells that the country is falling behind rival economies, notably Germany, on the rollout of 5G to stimulate its digital change in its industrial sector.

Last week, Qualcomm said it will open a new 5G research and development centre in France, co-located in Lannion in Brittany and Issy-Les-Moulineaux in the Paris region. Lannion is a centre for telecoms engineering and a European tech hub. Qualcomm has been working with the French government, it said, to “augment” Lannion as a telecom engineering hub. Qualcomm has facilities in the Paris region and Sophia Antipolis for more than 20 years.

China-based Huawei, locked-out of a number of major supply 5G deals in Western markets, said in January it will open a new manufacturing facility in France, its first outside China. Work has started on the site, in the east of the country, near the German border; Huawei expects to produce its first 5G base stations at the venue in 2023, and to produce €1 billion of networking gear for the European market each year.

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