The experimental network, launching in Lannion, France, in July will act as a blue-print for the next generation of more efficient and agile networks as Orange moves towards a ‘zero touch network’ and continues to differentiate and lead through the quality of experience offered to its customers.
A network of the future
A key step in realising its vision of the future of networks, Orange’s experimental network will be a 100% software-enabled network, be data and AI-driven, fully automated and cloud-native.
Crucially, it will also encompass Open RAN technology – underlining its commitment to this technology. By implementing and operating this network it will enable Orange to better understand how these technologies co-exist and their impact on the network lifecycle.
Furthermore, it will enable Orange to better understand the customer experience benefits of a fully cloudified network as well as the full potential of AI and Data.
It will also enable Orange to determine the future skills needed – a key strand of its Engage2025 strategy to ‘co-create a future-facing’ company, as well as the environmental benefits – another key pillar of its strategy. The project will run over a two-year period and ramp up to encompass several hundred users.
Multi-party collaboration brings together innovative leaders in their fields
In addition, Orange is currently working with partners able to cover all aspects of the network from the devices to the IS. For the first stage of the project, the partners include Mavenir for cloud 5G Open RAN, Casa Systems for cloud 5G SA core network, Hewlett Packard Enterprise for Cloud 5G SA SDM (Subscriber Data Management), Dell Technologies for infrastructure and servers supporting RAN Centralized Unit, Distributed Unit and Core and Xiaomi for devices. Orange also uses a continuous integration and continuous deployment approach as well as orchestration open source solutions, including GitLab and ONAP, to automate networks and service management.
A focused deployment
The new network sees the setting up of Open RAN and core function on a single Kubernetes-based infrastructure fully managed by Orange and deploying a fully automated core. From July, the network will start using and testing O-RAN radio equipment, CNF’s (Containerized Network Functions) on a cloud infrastructure, network data collection and AI automation.
The experimental network will also host Information System OSS (Operations Support System – network inventory management and network operations), BSS (Business Support System – CRM and billing) as well as scaling Orange’s ambition using AI to secure and optimize the network and predict its behavior. In 2022, the network will expand to further locations to increase the number of users and to test vertical use-cases leveraging dynamic network slicing.
Michaël Trabbia, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Orange, commented: “Our ambition is to prepare Orange for the operator of the future by building more resilient and auto-adaptive networks that offer best in class quality of service in each situation. This experimental network represents an important milestone on our way to implement and deploy Open RAN and AI technologies to prepare on-demand connectivity and zero touch operator capabilities.”