As a convergent operator, Orange Spain has been investing heavily in the extension of fiber and 5G networks. The operator has planned to launch commercial 10 Gbps XGS-PON services in five Spanish cities in partnership with ZTE. It is Orange's first attempt at delivering 10 Gbps broadband to retail users and follows a successful trial in October 2021 when Orange Spain demonstrated a live test of ZTE's F8648P XGS-PON ONT on its network.
Miguel ángel Almonacid, Network Strategy and Transformation Director at Orange Spain, talked about the company's fiber transformation journey, emphasizing that they will continue working to extend their XGS-PON deployment. He also shed lights on the company's plan to build a massive 700 MHz 5G network.
OSP is accelerating fiber rollout in Spain. What are the driving forces behind this accelerated transformation from copper to fiber?
In fact, we have been committed to the fiber deployment for years. The best sign of it is that Orange closed 2021 with a fiber deployment that already reaches more than 16 million households, while the number of customers with an adsl access contract (over the copper network) is decreasing. Fiber customers already account for 87% of fixed broadband portfolio.
The advantage of fiber is clear, higher speed without interferences, which means a better customer experience: while an adsl access cannot exceed 20 Mbps, Orange's XG-PON network offers 1 Gbps at the customer's premises.
How far did you reach in the fiber transformation journey and what is your roadmap in this area?
In the last two years our fiber rollout has been extended to almost one million more households. Our fiber now reaches 1,437 municipalities. And during this year, our target is to reach 16.8 million homes with our fiber network.
It is important to stress that, we continue working to extend our XGS-PON deployment, unique in the five most populated cities in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza), where Orange can also offer 10 Gbps connectivity using ZTE's ONT. Test data showed that terminals in the XGS-PON network achieved an upstream/downstream speed of 8.6 Gbps, which is close to the theoretical peak rate of XGS-PON. This meets Orange’s network planning and bandwidth deployment requirements and can serve as a reference for other European operators in their fiber transformation.
And as a leading telecom operator, Orange actively participates in the formulation of standards by international standardization organizations such as the ITU-T. As a trend-setter in the industry, Orange pays close attention to the technical evolution, standardization progress and industry chain development of PON technologies. Orange will continue to work with industry chain partners to advance the standardization and industrialization of 50G PON, promote the development and maturation of the next-generation optical access network, and meet the access requirements of various intelligent applications. Orange will also closely follow the improvement of the 50G PON standard and the related industry.
How will you leverage fiber technology to increase customer engagement and ROI?
At Orange, we have not slowed down investment in the face of the current crisis. Our investments have been increasing to reach 980 million € in 2021, which means that we have allocated almost 21% of revenues to growth projects, such as the extension of fiber and 5G networks. This investment has paid off as Orange has managed to maintain our dynamism in fiber optic services, having ended the year with 3.5 million customers, 4.5% more than the previous year.
As an operator with fixed and mobile services, what’s your take on the fiber + 5G synergy?
Fiber, 5G and 4G as well are complementary access technologies. Our 4G and 5G networks already cover 98.4% and almost 59% of the Spanish population, respectively. Orange ended 2021 with 20,357,000 customers, of which 16,325,000 are mobile (10,720,000 4G and 886,000 5G) and 4,032,000 are fixed broadband (with 3,507,000 using fiber services). As a convergent operator, Orange is committed to having the best network, fixed and mobile, offering connectivity solutions that meet customer needs, always with the best connection experience.
In 2022 and beyond, how do you plan to tackle challenges and develop new opportunities?
Regarding 5G technology, we have recently announced the largest network roll-out plan in the 700 MHz band by an operator in Spain, confirming our firm commitment to the extension of the fifth generation, with the aim of boosting the recovery of the economy through the digital transformation of society and the country's economic recovery, as well as reducing the territorial digital divide in Spain.
Throughout 2022 and progressively, the company will offer the new mobile technology on this band (essential to obtain the greatest benefits of the 5G network, including inside buildings and in rural areas) to our customers in more than 1,100 municipalities in Spain. Taking into account all the frequency bands currently available to Orange for 5G, Orange's 5G network will reach more than 1,500 municipalities by 2022.
And in parallel to network deployment, we continue to work closely with key industry players to develop 5G use cases in virtually all verticals (Industry, Tourism, Healthcare, Agriculture, Leisure, etc.).