LIVE FROM MWC21 BARCELONA: Orange detailed plans for a two-year trial of what it hailed as Europe’s first standalone (SA) end-to-end 5G cloud native network, unveiling a collection of open RAN, cloud and equipment suppliers as partners for the deployment in northern France.

At a press conference, Orange CTIO Michael Trabbia said it would be an experiment of the “network of the future” with the pilot designed to create a blueprint for agile “zero-touch” infrastructure using AI and automation for optimisation and maintenance.

Trabbia said the SA 5G network would be fully cloud native including the RAN, core, IT systems, OSS and BSS, and would use specific compatible mobile devices.

Orange’s suppliers in the pilot are: Mavenir for open RAN; Casa Systems for the core network; Hewlett Packard Enterprise for SDM; Dell for infrastructure and servers; Amdocs for BSS; and Xiaomi for the devices.

The project will begin in Lannion, northern France with 50 end users, before it is expanded to cover hundreds by the end of the year.

During 2022 Orange expects to be able to expand the project to further locations (initially in France) with the potential to test vertical use cases through network slicing.

Explaining the rationale behind the trial, Trabbia added the “technology is maturing quite fast but is not yet carrier grade and we still need to work on it,” pointing to the fact it was “critical” to assess this technology completely before full-scale rollout.