With 2020 recording the largest annual data consumption to date, the need for low-latency, high capacity and flexible networks has grown extensively. During the webinar held in February 2021, our Orange experts explored how to meet your customers’ growing demands for optimum speed, bandwidth and quality of service, while simultaneously scaling back costs and maintaining flexibility through unpredictable situations.
Consumer and business users' expectations of telecoms and online content have changed dramatically in the last year.
In terms of consumer connectivity, being locked down at home and unable to go anywhere meant significant increases in social media use and streamed video. July 2020 saw a rise of 10.5% in social media usage compared with July 2019. Strategy Analytics reported that video streaming services saw a growth of 28% in 2020.
"The world has seen a huge take-up in the use of social media, video, and streaming. The surge in broadband traffic in March and April 2020 was so extreme that some video services, such as YouTube, were forced to downgrade streaming resolution to preserve bandwidth. This was a totally unprecedented move," observes Jean-Marc Barraqué, "Connectivity.com" Project Director at Orange.
Businesses forced to close their premises and send workers home during lockdowns and social restrictions have needed more connectivity. Millions of companies had to rapidly implement teleworking, providing home workers access to corporate resources via remote access VPNs.
This, in turn, accelerated the already flourishing use of the cloud for enabling business applications, storage, e-commerce, or other commercial apps. On the back of the surge in teleworking, GlobalWebIndex found that over 25% of users expect to use videoconferencing platforms and tools more frequently after the pandemic has passed compared to pre-COVID habits.
"All these changes have indeed greatly affected the needs of our operators and content providers customers. Our customers will need more and more low-latency and secured bandwidth to support these usages and the distribution of large pieces of content with a high quality of service," commented Anne Morel, Senior Vice President Global Carrier Sales, Orange International Carrier.
In the face of this increased need for connectivity, coverage comes into the equation: network coverage is essential to delivering effective connectivity. Jean-Louis Le Roux, VP Global Wholesale & Enterprise Networks at Orange, comments: "Orange is constantly investing heavily in its networks, and that includes expanding our footprint as well as upgrading our capacities. Last year, we added over 80 new IP Transit, IPX, Voice or CDN PoPs to provide our services closer to our customers and their end-users. In 2020, data traffic on our network increased about 70%, up from 40% in previous years."
Orange recently launched its Djoliba network in West Africa, the first high-speed fiber optical network in the region which provides secured point-to-point links between eight national capitals. This connectivity will be a key contributor to the digital and economic development of a region with 330 million people.
Better connectivity and coverage depend on infrastructure investment. "Submarine cables are a huge area of investment for Orange: we own over 450 kilometres of cables all over the world, and we keep investing. The COVID-19 crisis meant many operators had to buy extra capacity in a hurry. With our investments in Dunant, the latest transatlantic cable, and Amitié, expected early 2022, we bring unprecedented capacity on the transatlantic route." argues Carine Romanetti, Head of Networks Strategy & Submarine Systems at Orange.
Other access technologies will play vital roles in ensuring people stay connected. "On the access side, 5G is promising major improvements on speed and latency. I also think innovation could come from satellite connectivity. Although it is not a new technology, it's making a big comeback because it could be a cost-effective way to deliver high-speed connectivity to remote areas. Some initiatives have made the news, like Google's balloons or the constellation of satellites launched by SpaceX. Orange just entered into a European consortium to look into the feasibility of deploying low earth orbit satellites," says Anne Morel.
According to Jean-Louis Le Roux, three main network disruptors will dramatically change how networks are designed and built. IP core routing, network function virtualization (NFV), and the network automation and orchestration layer will disrupt the network landscape.
IP core routing allows building a very simple, cost-efficient, and flexible IP transport backbone to carry B2B and wholesale traffic.
NFV, and latterly network function containerisation, enables strong separation between the infrastructure layer, the IP core, and the network service layer. "More and more network functions are available in a virtualised or containerised mode. At Orange, we are currently progressively virtualising and containerising all our network functions for SD-WAN, SSL, PCE and CDN. It will also soon be the case for 5G roaming and VoIP. This virtualisation and containerisation brings huge flexibility, elasticity, cost-efficiency and also drastically reduces time to market," continues Le Roux.
Le Roux's third disruptor, the network automation and orchestration layer, enables more efficient network operations with zero-touch provisioning. It also acts as a foundation for on-demand services. The layer relies on three main building blocks: network configuration, network modelling, and network API. "With those three pillars we can transform each network function into a microservice," says Le Roux. "These micro-services are then combined with an orchestration layer to provide an end-to-end service to customers, typically combining connectivity (NaaS), cloud (IaaS), and security. And further to this, AI comes into play. We are already using AI for security, and we will start using AI for network monitoring and capacity planning. It lets us predict failures and proactively react to avoid outages."
It also seems clear that with an uncertain future ahead and with markets evolving rapidly, operators must be able to quickly order, upgrade, and downgrade network resources. "We are continuing to invest heavily in the digitalisation of our offers, so they can be ordered and managed online through our portal, called Orange eCare. For the moment, our IP Transit and EVPL services are available online, and more services are coming soon. We want our customers to have total control over what they order from us: they can see the available capacities, the available interfaces and pick and choose what they want. Then they can order them online and get them delivered not in weeks, but in minutes," says Jean-Marc Barraqué.
Jean Louis Le Roux
Jean Marc Barraqué
Moderated by Jason McGee-Abe