Orange plans to release a more sophisticated version of its Livebox home gateway device later this year, the French incumbent revealed during a press conference in Paris earlier today.
The new device will feature more advanced WiFi functionality, greater storage capacity and support for Ultra HD (UHD) content.
Due to fierce competition in France's broadband and TV markets, Orange (NYSE: FTE) arguably attaches more importance than other European incumbents to innovation in the home gateway area, where it is being challenged by rivals including Numericable-SFR , Bouygues Telecom and Iliad (Euronext: ILD).
The smallest of France's four network operators, Iliad last year introduced a entry-level version of its popular Freebox that included a 4K player and support for WiFi at speeds of up to 450 Mbit/s.
But despite such innovations, Orange has managed to fend off the broadband challenge from rivals, picking up another 380,000 customers in France last year to finish 2015 with 10.7 million in total.
Iliad managed just 270,000 net adds, giving it 6.1 million broadband customers in total, while Altice -owned Numericable-SFR added only 20,000 to end the year with around 6.2 million subscribers overall. (See No-Growth Altice Results Send Shares Falling.)
Meanwhile, Bouygues Telecom -- an operator that Orange is trying to acquire -- gained an impressive 360,000 broadband customers but lags other players with just 2.8 million subscribers altogether. (See Orange CEO Sees 50:50 Chance of Bouygues Deal.)
Having already found themselves trailing Orange on customer growth, Numericable-SFR and Iliad are likely to be troubled by the latest news from Orange, which held a glitzy conference at the Carrousel du Louvre, near the world-famous art museum, to show off its new kit.
Perhaps hoping to persuade analysts and reporters of the significance of the Livebox upgrade, CEO Stéphane Richard also invited legendary French filmmaker Luc Besson -- rather than one of Orange's technicians -- to carry out a virtual-reality tour of the gateway's nuts and bolts at today's event.
Discussing the new Livebox features, Richard said the forthcoming device represented the culmination of tests going back one year and took into account feedback from customers as well as technicians and customer service employees.
The Livebox is also being heralded as the product of new and more open working practices at Orange, which assembled a team of experts drawn from many different parts of the business to develop the new device.
"We got rid of the silos to gather a team of experts to work on the same project, using agile methods," Richard told reporters and analysts. "This team is a network of technical expertise, experience and design talent."
Speaking to journalists after Richard's presentation, Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Orange's senior executive vice president of innovation, marketing and technologies, said that Orange would be able to reuse some of the technologies in the new Livebox when developing other services, including products aimed at other European markets.
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