Orange Romania has carried out 5G trials to assess the viability of using the next-generation mobile technology to provide residential broadband services.
The French operator, which sells both mobile and fixed-line services in the Romanian market, said the fixed wireless access (FWA) trials went better than it had expected from a technical perspective, but is still trying to figure out the business case for an investment.
Orange Romania may be under some competitive pressure to beef up its broadband presence, as Romanians eye deals that include the full range of fixed and mobile services.
While it serves about 9.5 million mobile customers, making it the country's biggest mobile operator, it provides broadband services for just 200,000.
Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), which owns the former state-backed incumbent, has 5.2 million mobile and 1.2 million broadband customers. Following a merger with Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), Vodafone Romania would have 600,000 broadband customers to add to its 9.2 million mobile subscribers.
During a press conference this week in the Romanian region of Transylvania, executives from Orange said trials had delivered "fiber-grade" services to about 15 homes, representing a mix of apartments and traditional houses, and met with a positive response from customers.
Using radio gear from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and core network equipment from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Orange was able to record a connection speeds of about 3 Gbit/s with four simultaneous downloads, and a peak speed of 6 Gbit/s.
Services were delivered over spectrum in the 26GHz range, after Romanian authorities granted Orange an experimental license for the trials.
Romania's government is expected to hold an auction of 26GHz spectrum in the second half of 2019 and Orange thinks a commercial 5G launch could happen in 2020.
Yves Martin, Orange Romania's chief marketing officer, reckons 5G could be used to support broadband services for "a good 10%" of Romania's population, equaling about 730,000 homes based on country data from 2016.
But Stefan Slavnicu, the operator's chief technology officer, told reporters that using 5G for broadband would require substantial investments in connecting basestations to fiber and "densifying" the network.
Liudmila Climoc, Orange Romania's CEO, echoed those remarks. "We know this technology will require significant investment on the technology layer and on spectrum," she told reporters. "It is still too early to talk about the business case."
For the full story and analysis of what Orange is trying to achieve, check out these articles on Light Reading:
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