The wholesale market for 5G: a bright future

Sun 26 Feb 2023

Our main challenge is to give access through our wholesale's offers to all who benefit from 5G SA as well as optimize our networks

Orange launched its 5G "Non Stand Alone" (NSA) service in late 2020 in France, for the Consumer, Enterprise and Wholesale markets. After 2023, Orange will use the deployed antennae for 5G NSA with a 5G core network, making it a "full" 5G network (known as SA, Stand Alone). This will increase the technical features and pave the way for new business prospects.

Where are we today with 5G on the wholesale market?

Since 2018 we have supported our MVNO customers in carrying out 5G pilots to test the features of this new technology. Then, in December 2020 they launched 5G for their own retail and B2B customers, simultaneously with the commercial operator Orange France.

The vast majority of our French MVNO customers have already chosen Orange's 5G to benefit from speeds 3 times and tomorrow 10 times higher than those of 4G! We also now offer 5G as part of our Sponsor Roaming offers (i.e. resale of our international roaming agreements). One of our MVNO clients was thus able to cover the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar by taking advantage of the very high speeds of 5G.

5G requires colossal investments and our operator customers see the value provided by the 5G massive investments we made : it allows us to monetize a “5G premium” in our offers.

What are the strategic challenges of mobile wholesale around 5G ?

We are an infrastructure operator: we innovate to offer new network enablers to our MVNO clients. Our main challenge is to give them access, through our offers, to all the benefits of 5G SA, while optimizing our networks.

The three key promises of 5G SA are increased speed, ultra-low latency, and the ability to make massive Internet of Things (IoT) possible. Increased speed is already effective with 5G NSA since 2020.

After 2023, 5G SA will give us access to Ultra-Low Latency (with latencies close to one millisecond) and Massive IoT, which will make it possible to accommodate a very large number of connected objects per square kilometer. 5G SA will also allow us to structure the network into slices to dedicate network sub-slices to specific customers or traffic, associated with service guarantees. For example: emergency services will be able to have dedicated network resources, guaranteeing their communications even in case of network saturation. In other words, they will benefit from "priority" access.

To fully take advantage of 5G, the network architecture needs to be fine-tuned: virtualization will enable in particular the automation of certain network functions and facilitate their deployment. Combined with Edge Computing, this architecture will further reduce latency by placing content and data closer to the end customer.

At Orange Wholesale France, we are working to simplify this technology in our offerings for our operator clients.
This evolution from 4G to 5G must be done in accordance with our social and environmental responsibility goals. The Group has set a very strong ambition in this area with a carbon neutrality target by 2040. With the explosion of usage and data volumes, our networks play a central role in achieving this objective. It is estimated that to carry one gigabyte of data, 5G uses 2 times less energy than 4G at its launch, will use 10 times less by 2025, and up to 20 times less by 2030.

What are the possible perspectives for 5G wholesale ?

The possibilities offered by 5G are very broad. We are working closely with our operator clients to identify future needs of end customers and develop use cases.
These use cases will primarily be industrial, such as industry 4.0, Smart Cities, broadcasting, remote control, teleoperations, and transportation. 5G will also benefit the consumer market with use cases such as gaming, augmented reality for sport events (on-site or remotely), virtual reality for culture and tourism, etc.
If industrial MVNOs begin to emerge on the wholesale market, it is likely that many of our future clients do not exist yet !

Mobile Private Networks (MPNs) should be the main users of differentiated services (service slices). Some integrators of these private networks are also becoming MVNOs to offer their customers a "continuum of service" on the Orange network.

Gradually, players are emerging, and the 5G market will slowly structure around the growth of network capacities and the development of dedicated slices for clients or services.

Operators coming from the world of Private Networks as well as those specializing in transportation - automotive and rail - will be strong consumers of differentiated services. We can also imagine, for example, a "vertical" made of communities of municipalities operating both a layer of private network for themselves and a layer of public network as an MVNO.

Finally, the fragmentation of the mobile network value chain into “bricks” caused by virtualization could enable us to offer infrastructure services beyond mobile connectivity.

In conclusion, the technological leaps made possible by 5G are disrupting ecosystems and will lead to new needs and new business models.
With its operator customers, Orange Wholesale France is fully committed to anticipate and answer these new needs. We are already at the forefront of 5G to monetize these new infrastructures, serving the Group.


Bénédicte Javelot

CEO, Orange Wholesale France