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Impressive Results Seen at Orange's 5G FWA Trial in Romania

by Philip Kendall | Jul 04, 2018

Orange Group’s 5G testbed in Romania released strong results from its fixed wireless access (FWA) trials at the start of this week. Orange Romania’s 5G FWA system is based in the community of Floreşti on the edge of Cluj, providing a good mix of housing stock and commercial premises. The trial with real customers, running from 1st June to 16th July, operates in the 26 GHz band, uses 5G radios and CPE (indoor and outdoor) from Samsung, and a 5G core and Wi-Fi routers from Cisco.  It is the first of its kind in Europe and an important step in the region’s move towards fiber-like FWA services. The trial consists of 15 residential customers and a number of business customers, encouraged to put the connection through its paces in terms of the number of devices connected and types of applications used.

Established to test the performance of the 5G mmWave FWA solution and the user experience, Orange Romania presented a number of interesting results at a press and analyst event in Floreşti on Monday:

  • The system is capable of delivering total throughput of 6 Gbps, delivering over 1 Gbps to individual users, some at a distance of over 1km from the 5G site. At its peak usage to date, the system delivered 3 Gbps aggregate throughput to four simultaneous users;
  • Customers have been very satisfied with the experience. Yves Martin, Orange Romania’s CMO, said customers were pleased with the throughput when using multiple devices in the home, getting an experience better than available fiber options in the market. Ultimately users want ease of use and fast speeds, and 5G FWA was delivering on both;
  • High bandwidth services such as 4K video and cloud gaming have performed well over the trial network, though it has not been used to test linear TV (at this stage, the use cases are entirely dependent on which devices users choose to connect to the Wi-Fi router);
  • In the business sector, the retailer Carrefour is able to support all its in-store data requirements over a single 5G CPE;
  • The outdoor, rooftop CPE has performed well, with Orange and its partners developing a tool for engineers to ensure correct alignment during installation. The indoor CPE has experienced higher attenuation and has been more susceptible to weather conditions;
  • Orange sees potential for a self-install option for indoor CPE, though recognizes this does bring challenges in terms of optimal CPE placement. For example, when they noticed a drop in performance at one triallist’s home they discovered the user had decided the indoor CPE was ugly and had put a plant pot in front of it on the windowsill.

Like many operators, Orange views the availability of fiber as key to 5G FWA deployment. There is high fiber availability in Romania’s cities (almost all Orange’s city base stations are connected via fiber) though Orange has a heavy investment program to extend fiber to rural sites.

Orange also re-iterated the more pragmatic “European” approach towards wider 5G opportunities, covering FWA, enhanced mobile broadband and IOT services. Stefan Slavnicu, Orange Romania’s CTO, highlighted the strong performance of Orange’s 4G+ LTE-A network in Romania (our own speed tests peaked at over 40 Mbps downlink) and that 5G would be used to support and enhance this experience. Its existing network grid is well-suited to a cost-effective 3.5 GHz 5G overlay and the priority of this, as well as mmWave FWA deployments, will be in meeting demand: “We will build the capacity around the need”.

These are exciting results for Europe, replicating the encouraging 5G mmWave FWA results we have seen from Verizon and AT&T in the US. Full commercial deployment in Romania will not be on the same aggressive timeline as launches planned before the end of the year in the US, but Orange anticipates Romania will release 26 GHz spectrum in H2 2019. Experience from the Floreşti trial will leave it well placed to move fast when spectrum licenses are awarded.

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