Orange launches 5G SA in Spain, more to follow this year

  • Orange’s first 5G standalone (SA) network launches in Spain
  • The 5G+ service is set to deliver enhanced capabilities for consumers and enterprises
  • Telco group plans further 5G SA launches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa over the next three years

Orange Group has kickstarted its rollout of 5G standalone (SA) services in Spain with the activation of its 5G SA core platform in select cities, and is planning further 5G SA launches across Europe, the Middle East and Africa within the next few years. 

Dubbed 5G+, the mobile service is initially being made available in Spain’s four largest cities – Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville – which will benefit from more than 90% coverage with 5G SA-enabled services and from “full exploitation of all 5G capabilities”, the company noted in a statement (available here in Spanish).

Customers will not have to pay more to use the 5G+ service, but they will need a compatible handset, such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 or Xiaomi 12 series, with more models to be made compatible in the coming months.

As announced during Mobile World Congress 2022 in Barcelona, Orange has developed its 5G SA core platform using technology from Ericsson, Nokia and Oracle.

With this move, Orange claims to be the first operator in Spain, and one of the first in Europe, to commercially launch a 5G SA network that is capable of delivering enhanced indoor 5G coverage, reducing latency, enabling longer battery life in handsets, and introducing advanced security features.

In the enterprise domain, 5G+ is set to address the need for “flexible, scalable, reliable and secure connectivity for real-time applications” and to enable network slicing to allocate the resources required for specific services for enterprises and industrial campuses, such as the reservation of radio resources and keeping private data inside the enterprise, which improves security, latency and throughput when needed.

Orange’s journey towards 5G SA

A company representative told TelecomTV that it selected Spain for its first 5G SA deployment because of “local market conditions,” and that each country in the Orange Group will make its own decision about when it is ready for such a move.

But that isn’t to say Orange doesn’t have a rollout plan: After Spain, the telco is aiming to launch its 5G SA service across the rest of its European operations during 2023 and 2024, while its operations in the Middle East and Africa are expected to switch on their 5G SA systems from 2025.

In terms of vendor partners, the telco group reaffirmed its selection of Ericsson, Nokia and Oracle for most of its European markets (Romania and Moldova being the exceptions), but did not provide any vendor information for its planned 5G SA core rollouts in the Middle East and Africa other than the selection criteria for the vendors are “business confidential”.

Despite the apparent advantages that standalone networks bring to service providers, the deployment of the enabling core platforms has been slower than anticipated, with just 39 operators globally having launched full 5G SA networks by the end of last year, according to Dell’Oro Group.

Last month, Vodafone UK activated its 5G SA core, for trial users initially, but noted that expanding 5G SA-enabled services to the whole of the UK would require support and help from regulators and the government.  

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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