Orange became the latest operator to throw weight behind open RAN technology, inking a deal with vendor Parallel Wireless and infrastructure company i engineering group to deploy software-based networking equipment for its unit in the Central African Republic.

The agreement is part of Orange’s Include Digital in Every African Life (IDEAL) scheme, which aims to provide access to digital services to unconnected users across its African footprint.

A statement from Parallel Wireless suggested the small country of Central African Republic (its population is less than 5 million) will be the first of a number of open RAN deployments for Orange in Africa.

Parallel Wireless noted the Central African Republic was a “digitally divided country with only 48 per cent unique mobile connections and limited network infrastructure.” It added “traditional 2G, 3G or 4G hardware-based networks are difficult and pricey to upgrade”.

The vendor claimed open RAN’s early life is best suited to low ARPU, technically challenging areas.

Earlier this week the head of Vodafone Group’s open RAN strategy, Santiago Tenorio Sanz, told Mobile World Live the technology is ready for 2G, 3G and 4G users in suburban and rural areas, but more time is needed to support dense urban areas and also 5G.

Market boost
Orange MEA CTIO Herve Suquet said the use of virtualisation, open RAN and automation would help the company in its ambition to lead the Central African Republic market.

It plans to provide voice, data and mobile money services already available in urban parts of the country to rural areas.

A software-based approach to the network is partly intended to ease expansion and introduction of new services.

“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,” Suquet said.