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"The great advantage of the partnership with Orange is the contribution of a major group’s expertise."
Within the framework of a public-private partnership (PPP), IRISnet relies on Orange to propose not only mobility services within the framework of its “Fixed Mobile Unification” (FMU) offer but also connectivity services where it isn’t present with its own fibre, Machine-to-Machine and Internet of Things (IoT), notably to deploy geolocalisation services for public transport and to install video protection cameras.
When in 2012 it concluded a 10-year public-private partnership (PPP) for the creation of IRISnet with the Brussels-Capital Region, Orange immediately began improving the architecture of the existing network by making it evolve towards ´gigabit´ rates, ranging as high as 10 Gbit/s in MPLS technology. Subsequently, with the afflux of regional projects such as “fibre to the school”, video protection and the growing number of new connections, it had to support more than 1,300 sites, either with Orange’s own technology in DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) or that of partners. "Our intention has always been to avoid reinventing the wheel and instead to rely on partners for certain services", explains Thierry Joachim, General Manager of IRISnet.
For his part, Christian Charlent, Director B2B Alliances and Partnerships of Orange, highlights the importance of Orange´s very high-speed fixed and mobile infrastructures to support the offer of IRISnet services. "The complementarity of our networks enables us to ensure the quality of our services to IRISnet, given that we assume on behalf of IRISnet operational responsibility for fixed telephony, fixed data service and mobile telephony."
Following a logic of innovation in unified communication and the convergence of the world of fixed and mobile telephony, IRISnet wanted to fulfil the wishes of its customers, who were demanding greater mobility both in the office and while travelling. Yet Christian Charlent finds that "DECT or voice on Wi-Fi aren’t solutions that are truly capable of fulfilling all our needs."
Orange therefore proposed to IRISnet its “Fixed Mobile Unification” (FMU) approach. In practice, as Christian Charlent explains, "the customer’s mobile can be regarded as an extension of the fixed telephony, with total mobility in addition." Concretely, a user can choose to be called on his fixed number or to have his fixed phone, mobile phone or softphone ring (or indeed, all three at the same time). He is offered a calendar with time slots making it possible to easily switch between professional and private use, with separate invoicing. Thus, a user can be reached via his fixed number wherever he happens to be (at his office, in the building, on another site, or even outdoors), on a telephone that doesn’t necessarily have to be a smartphone. As Thierry Joachim sums up: "In this way, we offer mobility on the fixed network, with good management of the communication costs."
To offer this FMU solution, Orange opted for the unified communications platform of Escaux, a choice that "met our expectations in terms of technology and made it possible to connect any type of telephone, thereby saving the customer from having to invest again in expensive equipment. In addition, Escaux is a Belgian company, which facilitates the contact and makes it easier for them to understand our needs", Christian Charlent observes. And because the intelligence of the system resides in the core of the network, which makes things a lot simpler.
At the service of the citizens
"This convergence makes it possible to improve, via public services of the Brussels-Capital Region, the services offered to citizens. This isn´t a matter of forwarding calls, but rather of convergence with integrated intelligence on the network", says Thierry Joachim, who emphasises the change management associated with this type of project.
"The public service is more than ever calling for innovations in order to improve the service to citizens", says Christian Charlent. “This public-private partnership turns out to be a genuine win-win, proof that a private company and a public body can work hand in the hand for the benefit of the customer."
Towards M2M and IoT
Beyond this FMU project, IRISnet and Orange are now focusing on Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and the Internet of Things (IoT) within the framework of initiatives like Smart Cities - "Knowing that Orange is a historical leader of the market", notes Christian Charlent - as well as the cards installed in the buses and trams of the STIB, on garbage cans of Bruxelles-Propreté, or even the dynamic command of speed limit signals in 30 zones around schools.