Orange to pioneer open RAN for Central African Republic
Orange is taking the first steps to move to open RAN in its African mobile networks, a step that will see the operators able to offer 4G and potentially 5G as well as older generations.
The French company has contracted with US-based Parallel Wireless to install open radio access network (O-RAN) equipment across the region, starting with the Central African Republic (CAR).
Hervé Suquet, Orange’s chief technology and information officer for the Middle East and Africa, said: “The combination of RAN openness and virtualisation, automation and new revenue-generating opportunities will enable Orange to lead the market to meet the needs of our customers most effectively in Central African Republic.”
At the moment the Orange operation in the country serves 700,000 customers, to whom it is busily promoting the benefits of 3G (see picture).
Suquet said: “Being able to run 2G and 3G on the same system today and, as our customers upgrade their devices to 4G in the future, seamlessly upgrade to 4G will help us not only extend our initial investment, but also bring new services much faster.”
Parallel Wireless noted that its system can provide scalable 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G software-based networks from the same infrastructure.
Bernard Lamy, Parallel Wireless sales director, said: “Implementing our world’s leading open RAN platform will allow Orange to enable new subscriber services to be deployed quickly, seamlessly and more reliably.”
Orange and Parallel Wireless are working with I Engineering Group, an infrastructure group specialising in Africa and emerging markets. Orange said the CAR project is part of its Ideal – Include Digital in Every African Life – programme, designed provide digital services to customers who do not have any connectivity today. But it did not identify the other countries that will be served by O-RAN beyond the CAR.
The technology as developed so far is not suitable for dense networks, but O-RAN is seen as a viable, and cheaper, alternative to building out rural networks. O-RAN can support all generations, said Parallel Wireless, “a key consideration” for mobile operators not wanting to build a separate 5G network that overlays existing 2G, 3G and 4G networks. However, O-RAN is being seen as an alternative to Huawei and ZTE for rural networks.