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Orange has opened the first permanent 5G lab in Antwerp, a project that is unique for Belgium. The goal? To unlock the full potential of 5G. In doing so, Orange is widening the scope of the project started in 2020 with partners and large companies in the port of Antwerp.
Since late 2019, Orange has operated the 5G SA campus in the port of Antwerp. The 14 sites of the radio network provide 5G coverage in virtually the entire port area, forming a standalone campus network. In 2020, co-innovation initiatives were launched on this network, resulting in several concrete 5G applications. Several partners and five large industrial port companies including Covestro and Borealis also put their weight behind the project. The initial results were presented at Start Walking 5G, a major online event.
This co-innovation initiative also gave birth to the first 5G customer community, consisting of customers and partners. The community meets regularly to exchange knowledge and experiences with 5G.
Thanks to the OrangeFab start-up acceleration programme, two start-ups that develop industrial 5G applications were added. Meanwhile, the community continues to grow, with new industrial partners and additional applications developed by Orange.
“Now we want to consolidate all of this expertise in the 5G Lab”
“Now we want to consolidate all of this expertise in the 5G Lab,” says Michaël Peeters, Innovation and Business Development Manager at Orange. “But there’s more, of course. The 5G Lab will not only allow interested parties to discover the current possibilities and solutions 5G has to offer, it will also become the place par excellence to develop and test new applications with the new 5G ecosystem.”
The 5G Lab officially opened on 13 October at The Beacon in Antwerp, a business and innovation hub that brings together, among others, technology companies and researchers to develop smart solutions that make the world liveable and sustainable.
The recently opened 5G Lab is part of a pan-European network of 5G Labs run by the Orange Group in the aim of discovering and developing new 5G applications. Moreover, it wants to bring 5G closer to the customer. The 5G Labs are in contact with each other and exchange experiences, knowledge and applications. By the end of 2021 the Orange Group will operate 10 5G Labs. The Lab in Antwerp is the eighth and only the second to be based outside France.
5G SA – the most advanced standard
What’s unique about the 5G Lab in Antwerp is the 5G technology in use there. The Antwerp Lab is the only one to run on the most advanced 5G standard. With the 5G standalone standard, both the radio network and the core network run entirely on 5G, unlike 5G non-standalone, where a 5G radio network is linked to the existing 4G core network. The 5G SA Orange network offers the unique possibility to reserve part of the network exclusively for a specific application or customer without interference from other users or applications on the network. This functionality is called network slicing. It allows Orange Belgium to set up a network “slice” for each of its customers that acts as a virtual private network, independent of other users.
“As such we make a small slice of the public network private,” Michaël Peeters explains. “This considerably reduces the total investment cost for companies, by as much as 30% compared to setting up an entire private network on an industrial estate. At the same time, this type of configuration guarantees a high level of availability of the network and transparent protection of all users and their data.”
“The slicing functionality was tested extensively last year at our campus network in the port of Antwerp. For instance, BASF’s local business network for crisis communication was transferred to a 5G private network slice. Subsequently, we successfully simulated the behaviour of the network under critical circumstances. We are happy to share the results of this test with the visitors to our 5G Lab,” Michaël Peeters concludes.
Orange’s 5G lab was launched on 13 October. Curious to find out what happened at this open day? Watch our video and find out!