& cplSiteName &

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        ADD A COMMENT
    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...  :-)

    Featured Video
    From The Founder
    Light Reading founder Steve Saunders talks with VMware's Shekar Ayyar, who explains why cloud architectures are becoming more distributed, what that means for workloads, and why telcos can still be significant cloud services players.
    Flash Poll
    Upcoming Live Events
    May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
    May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
    September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
    October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
    October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
    November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
    November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
    November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
    December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Hot Topics
    Millimeter Wave 5G: The Usain Bolt of Wireless?
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/12/2018
    Australia's Optus on Back Foot After 'Anglo Saxon' Job Ad
    Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, 4/13/2018
    Is Gmail Testing Self-Destructing Messages?
    Mitch Wagner, Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, Light Reading, 4/13/2018
    BDAC Blowback – Ex-Chair Arrested
    Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/17/2018
    Verizon: Lack of Interoperability, Consistency Slows Automation
    Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/18/2018
    Animals with Phones
    I Heard There Was a Dresscode... Click Here
    Live Digital Audio

    A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed