Orange, the largest mobile network operator in France, is sticking with familiar partners as it readies 5G deployments. The company today announced it selected Ericsson and Nokia to provide radio access network (RAN) equipment and services for its 5G network.
The Swedish and Finnish vendors have long-standing agreements with Orange, and the new 5G contracts follow existing areas of operations. The formal designation comes amid ongoing concerns about the security of Huawei’s equipment in Europe, and just days after the United Kingdom approved limited use of the China-based vendor’s equipment.
The continuation of Orange’s deals with Ericsson and Nokia also highlights most operators’ preference to maintain relationships with existing RAN vendors. Integrating equipment and services from a new vendor remains a challenge, and this dynamic gives existing vendors an upper hand as 5G gains momentum. Nokia has repeatedly said most of its 5G deals to date have come from existing 4G customers.
Orange issued a request for proposals in early 2019 and said it reached the agreements after several months of testing. Nokia will continue supplying equipment and services in the west and southeast regions of France, and Ercisson will continue providing equipment and services to Orange in the northeast and southwest regions of the country. Both vendors have existing equipment operating in those regions dating back to 2G, according to Orange.
5G Deployments Coming Later This Year
“We are delighted to be pursuing our partnerships with both Nokia and Ericsson, two key long-term partners, in order to develop a powerful and innovative 5G network,” Orange France CEO Fabienne Dulac said in a prepared statement.
Nokia described Orange France as one of the largest mobile operators in Europe, and said the agreement calls for a range of products and services, including single RAN technology, automation and network management tools, and professional services. The vendor said Orange will initially deploy 5G via software upgrades and eventually introduce 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software for new 5G frequency bands.
Ericsson said the new five-year agreement makes it “the major RAN” provider for Orange France, highlighting its continued partnership in the French capital of Paris and other major regions of the country. The vendor said it will begin deployment as soon as possible to enable the operator to launch 5G services when new frequencies are available later this year.
The country’s communications regulatory agency plans to start issuing licenses for new spectrum in the 3.4 GHz and 3.8 GHz bands during the first half of the year. France is Europe’s fifth-most populated country in the region, and the last of the major European nations to launch 5G-specific spectrum auctions.
Each of the country’s four mobile operators are being offered 50 megahertz of spectrum at a fixed price of roughly $390 million. The carriers will also have the opportunity to bid for an additional 11 lots of 10-megahertz blocks of spectrum in an auction, and each operator is required to deploy 5G in at least two major cities before the end of the year.