Orange CTIO embraces the ‘era of open’

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Dec 1, 2023

Orange CTIO Bruno Zerbib shares his views with attendees at the Orange Open Tech Day in Paris. Source: Orange.

Orange CTIO Bruno Zerbib shares his views with attendees at the Orange Open Tech Day in Paris. Source: Orange.

  • Bruno Zerbib has been the chief technology and innovation officer (CTIO) at Orange since June
  • He says the era of open and software-defined networking is here – it just needs an agile culture to unlock its potential
  • Zerbib also believes that the telecom sector is moving beyond the ‘generational paradigm’ 
  • ‘We won’t be marketing 6G,’ he tells attendees at Orange’s Open Tech Day in Paris

The telecom industry has embarked on a “new era of open” that will change everything and help service providers break away from the “generational paradigm” that will end with 5G, Bruno Zerbib, the chief technology and innovation officer (CTIO) at Orange, told attendees at the operator’s Open Tech Day in Paris on Thursday. 

Zerbib, who has software, hardware and virtualised system development experience from his previous roles at the likes of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cisco and Ciena and who joined Orange in June, said the telecom sector is heading into an era that is “very different from the past 5, 10 or 15 years. Everything is changing - we are embracing cloud technology, we are essentially software-defined, we have AI everywhere… and we understand that we need to be different.”

That difference is about more than just the technology underpinning the networks and services, though. “To be successful we need to be agile – we are committed to be agile and more than ever to be ‘open’. We are lucky because we are in this new era of open… we are no longer exposed to a time when everything is siloed… most of the cutting edge technology today is being made available as open source,” such as Kubernetes for cloud-native, large language models (LLMs) for generative AI and more, he noted. 

And to be agile, Orange needs a new way of working and this is where Zerbib and the other members of the Orange senior executive team need to foster a next generation culture. 

“As long as we have the right culture… and we have the right partners and are open within the group, with the right mindset and an agile culture, then the sky is the limit. This will change the way we think about telecom,” stated the CTIO. 

One thing that certainly needs to change is the strategic connection to generations of mobile specifications and the technology upheaval that comes with those generational shifts, he stressed. 

“We have been stuck in a generational paradigm – 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G… I personally believe 5G will be the last and we are moving beyond  the Gs – [instead] we are going to have continuous innovation.” 

Those Gs have not been helpful for end users either, he noted. “Our customers tell us they don’t feel much difference moving between 4G and 5G – they should feel a difference, but [the industry] failed in terms of marketing – we talked about bandwidth when we should have been talking about the efficiency we have created in terms of energy consumption and the way we improve the reliability of the network,” noted Zerbib. 

But what the introduction and evolution of 5G has given Orange is a much more flexible underlying architecture based around its cloud-native, 5G standalone (SA) core platform: That, said the CTIO, will enable Orange to develop new use cases and capabilities that can be developed and rolled out on a continuous basis.

The future for Orange, then, is one of ongoing development and innovation based on a software-defined, cloud-oriented platform that will help to cut the ties with the legacy ways of working and enable the giant, multi-market operator to build and develop from its current position rather than work towards the next gig generational change.   

“We won’t be marketing 6G – we will be marketing new capabilities, how we are reducing CO2 emissions and continuously improving latency… for enterprises, with low latency, we’ll be able to unlock the third wave of IoT enabling industrial processes with robotics… We don’t need to talk about generational improvements – there will be continuous innovation,” stated the CTIO, who noted that Orange already has years of AI developments behind it and one of the largest teams of AI-trained staff in Europe. 

“The attitude we have and the partnership we are developing with the strongest technology players is enabling us to change and open up our capabilities. We are no longer just a connectivity provider – we are going to be transforming Orange as a platform company. We’re going to be exposing services through APIs, just like the hyperscalers, that will be made available to enterprise customers, startups, partners… we have an incredible infrastructure” that includes an “incredible footprint” of edge computing to help deliver low-latency services.  

“This is a time of transformation – what matters to us is that we have the right culture. If you don’t have the right culture and the right approach then you really can’t transform and scale yourself. We are building a culture that is very agile and very open and that is the recipe for long term success,” he claimed.  

So does Zerbib really think that telecom, so long derided as slow and stuck with old ways of working, has finally changed and can compete with the cloud-oriented technology giants? 

He claims that Orange, at least, has thrown off the shackles of legacy telecom. “Ten years ago I would not have joined Orange. And what has helped the change is that we are now extremely well connected and share knowledge with many ecosystems… within Orange the  thirst for knowledge is incredible. We have been arrogant in the past and that is why we were lagging. We now have the humility to be open to knowledge from outside our [telecom] world… this [transformation] started before I joined” and that made it easy to accept the CTIO job at the telco, he noted. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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