1h | Alan Burke-Gray
Orange has announced what it calls the “network of the future,” an experimental cloud-based network that hopes to eventually provide “environmental connectivity.”
The company has applied to the French regulator Arcep for permission to operate the test network in Lannion, a town in Brittany, northwestern France, where the company has its own research center.
The need for permission is because Orange will sign real business customers and users to use the network.
“This is Europe’s first stand-alone 5G cloud-to-end network,” said Michael Trabia, CEO of the Technology and Innovation Group. Capacity in a preliminary briefing before today’s announcement.
“It’s an experimental network, but it’s a network with real users. The technology is maturing fast, but it is not yet a carrier class. “
It is 100% software, not just the radio access network (RAN), but the kernel, IT, operational support system (OSS) and devices, Trabbia said. This means that it is not just an open RAN system, “and we support open RAN technology”, but also applies the principles to the kernel.
“We have deployed a fully automated core,” said Elizabeth Pai (pictured), director of the next-generation 5G operator, which runs Orange.
“This is a plan for the next generation of flexible networks,” Trabia added.
One of the crucial aspects of the test is to test how the components of the different vendors work together. The Lannion network will use the Mavenir cloud 5G suite, Casa Systems for the core network, HPE for the cloud-based software defined network (SDN), Dell infrastructure and servers, Amdocs business support systems (BSS) and Xiaomi devices.
Orange will conduct interoperability tests between the devices and the RAN. “Software networks need physical elements. That takes time, ‘said Pai.
Orange uses the Linux Foundation’s Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), she added. “There are some key components built by Orange around artificial intelligence (AI) and security.
Orange calls the project Pikeo, which Py says is “just a code word,” although Urban Dictionary online says pikeo is a person “who is irresistible to human ability.” “The name was chosen by the project team and they like it,” she said.
The company hopes to expand Pikeo to other locations in France in 2022, “and possibly in other countries,” Trabia said. “We want to test usage cases and test net cutting.”
He stressed that Orange would not consider Pikeo in the short term when building its 5G core network. “Pikeo will come later.” But “by 2025, 100% of the new equipment [in Orange] RAN will be opened ”and will move to a cloud-based architecture.
“We don’t believe we’re ready today – that’s why we’re building this experimental network,” he said. “We don’t have to have all the answers today. That’s why we make Pikeo. We will refine our plans. ”
One of the challenges is that Orange will need people with new skills to build and manage future networks, Py said. “People with networking skills and IT skills. A new type of network needs the two skills combined. “