ORANGE 5G LAUNCH, BUCHAREST: Orange entered the 5G fray with the launch of its first commercial network within its footprint, deploying the technology in three major Romanian cities.

The operator launched 5G services in capital Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Iasi, with other Romanian cities to follow from 2020 onwards. At a launch event Ramon Fernandez, deputy CEO for Finance, Performance and Europe, explained the country was a natural choice to lead the operator’s 5G charge, having been a key part of its footprint since 1997.

“We have been innovating a lot in this country since we arrived”, he said, adding the operator had invested “more than €3.5 billion” in its Romanian operations over the past 22 years.

“Our ambition is to continue to grow and invest in Romania”, which will act as something of a testbed for “new innovations like eSIM and number sharing”, he said.

Fernandez explained the operator deployed 115MHz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz bands, “more than double” the amount available to competitors. Orange stated the network offers peak download rates of 1.2Gb/s, with average rates of 600Mb/s.

Orange is the largest operator in Romania with 10.3 million connections according to GSMA Intelligence, just ahead of rival Vodafone’s 10 million.

Vodafone and number four player Digi launched 5G earlier this year.

No limits
The service is initially available on Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G, with Orange developing a package of premium offers designed to enhance user experience. Fernandez explained these include unlimited data and access to content, along with a connected watch.

He added 5G will address three main priorities, the first of which is adding mobile capacity and speed. “With speeds much higher than 4G, 5G will enable immersive experiences, it will open a variety of cultural, educational, [and] industrial possibilities”.

Other benefits cited include high-speed connectivity for homes and businesses, boosting development of specialised services and providing very low latency for critical use cases.

“It’s a collective responsibility to make the best of these opportunities and keep mindful of potential risks”, Fernandez said.

Meanwhile Orange continues to test 5G in its home market of France. Regulator Arcep hasn’t yet auctioned spectrum, so commercial launches are not expected until 2020 at the earliest.