Light Reading
France Telecom-Orange has unveiled a package of 'major innovations' for its customers – but what counts as innovation these days?

Is Orange Really Innovating?

Ray Le Maistre
11/30/2012
50%
50%

Orange (NYSE: FTE) has unveiled a menu of what it is calling "major innovations" for its domestic customers as it seeks to keep pace with its domestic telco and Web-based rivals.

Like all other traditional telecom operators, Orange is under pressure from its traditional rivals -- most notably Iliad (Euronext: ILD) (best known for its Free brand) in recent times -- and Web services players that regard anyone and everyone connected to the Internet as potential users of their over-the-top (OTT) applications. (See Euronews: FT's Q1 Suffers Free Fall and Euronews: Iliad's Clogging Our Network, Says FT.)

But what exactly passes for "major innovations" at a Tier 1 telco such as Orange? It's a mixed bag that's for sure: If a startup took the majority of these "innovations" to investors or analysts, they'd likely be shown the door before the end of their presentation.

But "innovation" means something different in telco-land: It usually means 'doing something we haven't done before.'

Even by that criterion, some of these new services don't cut it.

But we'll use that interpretation of "innovation" to take a look at what Orange is lining up for its French customers, starting with the services that don't really register on the innovation scale:

  • Mobile broadband -- Orange is expanding the number of cities to four (adding Lyon, Lille and Nantes to Marseille) where 4G services are available, initially for enterprise users and then consumers (from February 2013).

  • Fixed broadband -- Fiber-to-the-home services with downstream speeds of up to 200 Mbit/s. A good addition to the broadband roster, but, again, is this really innovative or just something they haven't done before?

  • Cloud storage -- The Orange Cloud digital storage service provides up to 50GB of digital space for each customer (and double that capacity for 4G customers and fiber broadband customers with a Livebox Play set-top box). Offering online storage is commonplace these days, but Orange at least makes a concession by noting that connectivity to the service for 4G users does not count against their data usage package.

  • NFC capabilities for mobile users -- Orange is very keen on near-field communications (NFC). That enthusiasm is not rubbing off. This is another service enhancement that doesn't come with an innovation tag these days.

    While those services will attract customer uptake, they're not really pushing any boundaries. The following offers, though, are more deserving of the "innovation" label.

  • Multi-functional set-top boxes -- The new Livebox Play set-tops do sound interesting, with an embedded 3D Blu-Ray player, two Wi-Fi connections, a remote control with a joystick and keyboard and the ability to split the TV screen in two, one half of which can be used to access social media feeds. This is more about enhanced functionality than just speeds and feeds and certainly pushes the boundaries of what is usually on offer from a telco (as long as it works… ), so this at least moves the needle on the innovation gauge.

  • RCS capabilities -- Using the 'joyn' brand being pushed by the GSM Association (GSMA) , Orange is already offering rich communication services (RCS)-enabled applications, such as video communications and content sharing, in Spain and is now preparing to offer them in Belgium, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and France. While these applications wouldn't cause much of a stir in the Internet world, this is a leap forward for telcos as they require the complex deployment of provisioning and management tools involving various Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) systems that enable Web services functionality that's tied to identifiable user accounts and policy rules. The danger is that the complexity will stifle service development, but it at least represents a step in the right direction and involves a new, non-traditional approach to service creation and delivery.

  • Libon -- A smartphone app (for iOS only currently, Android soon) that can be used by anyone on any network to set up free HD voice calls and swap instant messages with other Libon users. This certainly counts as innovation in the telco world because it has the potential to be used extensively by people who will never engage with Orange as a paying customer -- that's a scenario that historically hasn't interested the likes of Orange, which have always looked for a direct return-on-investment from their R&D efforts. Now, though, like Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF)'s Digital division, Orange is showing signs of thinking more like a Web services player and that's to its credit. In true telco fashion, though, there is a Premium version that comes with a tariff of £1.99 (US$3.19) per month. (See Orange Finds Its Web Services Voice.)

  • Facebook partnership -- Orange has been working with Facebook to "introduce more communication tools into social networks, with a first public teleconference service coming in summer 2013." This service is being referred to as 'Party Call,' and, as Ingrid Lunden at TechCrunch found out, will route group calls over the telco's voice network rather than using a packet voice protocol over the public Internet. That's an interesting approach and an innovative mix of social and telco platforms.

    The standout development there is the development with Facebook, though we'll have to wait another six months or so to see how that plays out.

    Six months is a very long time in this market, though. During that time, what else will be developed for Facebook-based voice communications by Web-savvy startups building from Facebook APIs? And what might be available from the WebRTC development community? (See TEF Digital's TokBox Does Video Chat for iOS and OTT Services Provide New Opportunities for SDP Vendors.)

    Orange appears to be moving faster, but it may not be fast enough.

    — Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

    (3)  | 
    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
  • Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    Gabriel Brown
    50%
    50%
    Gabriel Brown,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    12/5/2012 | 5:16:47 PM
    re: Is Orange Really Innovating?


    Two things on the list that stand-out to me are:


    1/ the zero-rating of the cloud storage on LTE -- is that for real? That could be attractive to users, and help Orange make some money.


    2/ the Libon app is supposedly compatible with Joyn/RCS. That could be interesting as it's a way to grow the Joyn user-base more rapidly. I'd expect Telefonica's TuMe to end up being Joyn compatible too, although I don’t think they've said that yet.


    Edit: Orange also, so I read, offers free Wikipedia in Middle East & Africa. A different kind of innovation, but interesting: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/24/orange-wikipedia-mobile-devices-free

    patentchoi
    50%
    50%
    patentchoi,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    12/5/2012 | 5:16:38 PM
    re: Is Orange Really Innovating?


    "..shown the door before the end of the meeting" ... that was funny but below the belt.

    digits
    50%
    50%
    digits,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    12/5/2012 | 5:16:37 PM
    re: Is Orange Really Innovating?


    "that was funny but below the belt"


    Then my job here is done...  :-)

    Flash Poll
    From The Founder
    It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
    LRTV Interviews
    From 4G to 5G: Alcatel-Lucent's Dave Geary

    11|25|14   |   09:09   |   (1) comment


    Dave Geary, President of Wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, talks about the evolution of the 4G market, small cells, partnerships, 5G and the IoT.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Building a Secure Telefonica Network With Huawei's High-End Firewall

    11|24|14   |   4:37   |   (0) comments


    Andrew Davies, IP architect of the Telefonica, a leading digital communications company, discusses the Huawei security gateway solution and putting the solution into the testbed.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Huawei Partners with Spirent to Verify CE12816's 10GE Port & TRILL Networking Capabilities

    11|24|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


    Spirent Communications is the world's leading supplier for telecom testing appliances and solutions. Spirent has been in a close partnership with Huawei for a long time.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Saudi Airlines & Its ICT Transformation

    11|24|14   |   2:07   |   (0) comments


    In this video, Saudi Airlines discusses its network problems and how Huawei's Agile Network is its all-in-one solution.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Huawei's Agile Switch Benefiting Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital

    11|24|14   |   2:40   |   (0) comments


    Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital speaks about how Huawei's Agile Switch has improved the medical service's network infrastructure.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    FanPlay & Huawei Build a Wireless Agile Smart Stadium

    11|24|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments


    FanPlay is a cloud-based white label service, which is effectively a football fan engagement platform underpinned by mobile payment technology.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Building an Agile Stadium

    11|24|14   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


    Stadiums may be thousands of tons of concrete and steel, but they now need to be agile. Being at the stadium may not be as alluring as it once was. Sports franchises and stadium operators discuss how to get fans back.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Huawei Helps ChinaCache Tackle Challenges in the Internet Industry

    11|24|14   |   3:09   |   (0) comments


    ChinaCache is China's largest content distribution network supplier. Huawei's CE12800 has provided ChinaCache with very strong support in its establishment of an infrastructure network.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Cefinity on Managed Security Services & Next-Generation Firewall

    11|24|14   |   7:05   |   (0) comments


    Cefinity is a cloud management service provider in Southeast Asia. Ivan Zhang, CEO of the company, discusses the implementation of security service management in the cloud era.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Huawei's Agile Gateway in the Eyes of Cefinity

    11|24|14   |   2:11   |   (0) comments


    Cefinity is a managed service provider for enterprise networks. The company currently uses Huawei's AR series routers for the most complete range of functions. CEO Ivan Zhang speaks about the advantages of the AR series routers.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    CTO of Bus-Online Talks About Huawei's Agile Gateway

    11|24|14   |   2:53   |   (0) comments


    Bus-Online covers around 100 million users everyday. In addition to providing mobile TV, and advertising services to the public, Bus-Online has also entered the field of mobile Internet.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Amsterdam ArenA as an Agile Campus

    11|24|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


    The Amsterdam ArenA, home of the Ajax soccer team, can be a crowded space. ArenA has partnered with Huawei to work on bringing ample bandwidth to 53,000 people at the same time.
    Upcoming Live Events
    December 2, 2014, New York City
    December 3, 2014, New York City
    December 8-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
    February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
    April 14, 2015, New York City, NY
    May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
    May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
    June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
    Infographics
    Irish Telecom outlines the rise of VoIP technology, including its adoption within businesses and their perception of its quality.
    Hot Topics
    $38.3M: Ain't That a Kik in the SMS
    Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 11/20/2014
    Do You Have a 2020 Vision?
    Dennis Mendyk, Vice President of Research, Heavy Reading, 11/21/2014
    Operators Should Block Ads to Get Their Cut, Startup Says
    Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 11/24/2014
    $35B+ Spectrum Auction Dings Verizon, Shines Dish
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/24/2014
    Amazon Eyes Ad-Supported Video – NY Post
    Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 11/25/2014
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed