Working to the stated principle that the most innovative aspect regarding next-generation mobile networks is what you do with one, global operator Orange has accelerated its development of 5G products and services with a dedicated 5G standalone (SA) technology campus situated at the Port of Antwerp, a flagship user of Orange 5G technology and services.
The operator said businesses are increasingly expecting telecom providers to not only offer connectivity, but a broader range of services and guidance on new technologies.
With its latest facility, and following a number of co-innovation initiatives with partners and large companies over the past year, Orange is confident that it has taken an important step to unlock the full potential of 5G.
At the new site situated in The Beacon in Antwerp, the operator will demonstrate the capabilities of the 5G SA telecom standard and how it will help companies to innovate and digitise operations. It consolidates the knowledge and expertise gathered from Orange Belgium on 5G Industry 4.0, as well as the initial co-innovation use cases delivered in the Port of Antwerp to help develop and test new and inspiring Industry 4.0 use cases.
The Orange 5G Lab is a service offer for customers, prospects and all economic players interested in 5G technology, and is based on a programme for discovering 5G and its various usages. Experts provide key knowledge and enable users to test use cases or new products and services in real-life conditions by using the 5G SA network technology.
As the lab’s radio network is directly connected to the operator’s 5G Core system, the development of new use cases allows Orange ease of access to deploy and scale them to the customers’ premises. In addition, and to boost the development of 5G services when compatible hardware is still a potential gating factor, the Orange 5G Lab site hosts various types of certified 5G devices – such as routers, smartphones, tablets, smart glasses and cameras – that work on a 5G SA network and are tested and validated by Orange engineers.
At the opening ceremony of the site, the operator displayed a number of key use cases facilitated by it 5G network, including industrial robotics, autonomous vehicle safety from the context of enabling object detection on railway lines along with autonomous driving of a host of vehicles, and emergency response using push-to-talk functionality.
In the first demonstration centred around human-robot coworking, a robotic arm used the 5G SA network as well as the low latency. The use case was developed together with Robotics supplier Staubli and mixed reality solution provider Mr Watts. The robotic arm was controlled via smart glasses connected to the Orange 5G SA network using augmented reality to visualise interactions with the robot.
For the first step towards autonomous driving on rails – developed with OTIV, a startup selected via the Orange Fab acceleration programme – the demo showed a train equipped with cameras, sensors and an artificial intelligence (AI) engine that could provide assistance to the driver by automatically detecting obstacles in front of the train and by alerting or stopping the train.
Orange said this use case was of particular interest to large industrial plants with rails, where multiple wagons are pushed by trains with poor visibility at the front wagon. 5G networks provide the necessary bandwidth, reliability and latency to connect both the front cameras and the driver’s console to operate safely.
For Werner De Laet, chief of enterprise, wholesale and innovation officer of for Orange Belgium, the opening of the 5G Lab was an important step towards delivering concrete business value from the next-generation network.
“We have more a strategic plan which we call Orange Ahead. There’s one important pillar which is boosting the B2B market, which is an important growth factor. Two years ago, we decided to not just speak about 5G, not to try to imagine what 5G could bring, but to just do it and not do it alone, trying to create an ecosystem with companies which are next door with customers, partners, startups,” said De Laet.
“This 5G standalone network [works] not just for the technology, but to see how companies will benefit from this technology. And we delivered our first 5G, real-life use cases…in October 2020.”
By inviting customers, prospects and partners to use the lab to discover, develop and test 5G solutions, Orange Belgium believes that it can foster digital innovation and create value for the whole Belgian economy and beyond.
Karine Dussert-Sarthe, executive vice-president of innovation marketing and design, Orange Group, said: “Our growing network of Orange 5G Labs unlocks innovation from Paris to Bucharest and fosters collaboration across the ecosystem.
“140 businesses have explored 5G in details with us, and more than 40 have benefited from complimentary customised support to prototype how 5G can support their own products or services to unlock value. We are thrilled to open our latest hub for co-innovation in Belgium – a market fully immersed in building ground-breaking 5G use cases that will change how businesses operate.”