Orange tests cloud-native 5G standalone network in France

Lannion Francie

Orange is launching a test Standalone (SA) 5G network in France to evaluate the benefits of cloud, AI and new radio technologies on its operation and the customer experience.

Currently, most 5G networks use a Non-Standalone (NSA) architecture that links an LTE core to new radios supporting 5G frequency bands. The next step, 5G SA, is to replace that evolved packet core with a new cloud-native 5G core. The virtualization of key network functions and the aggregation of data will make rolling out new services faster and easier and will allow service providers to better adapt to market trends.

Further, SA 5G will enable network slicing, allowing service providers offer personalized services customers, each with its own quality of service tailored to their specific needs.

The idea is for Orange’s experimental network to basically run itself as a fully cloud-based, “zero touch” network, automatically provisioning services and fixing issues, while using data to optimize infrastructure. The network will also offer a glimpse into Open RAN and how open networking can coexist with other technologies.

“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,” said Michaël Trabbia, chief technology and innovation officer at Orange. “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.”

The 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.

Orange is working with several industry partners including Mavenir, which will bring its MAVair family of virtualized Open RAN software solutions which will take advantage of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning platforms to enable the RAN to flex and adapt based on usage and coverage. In addition, Casa Systems will be responsible for the core network, HPE will provide cloud-based subscriber data management capabilities and Dell will supply hardware and Xiaomi devices.

The deployment will begin in the town of Lannion, with expansion expected in 2022.