Orange majors on virtual network presence at 2017 ShowHello

Network virtualisation, network intelligence, network security. That’s how Orange said ShowHello in 2017.

Before he launched a digital assistant called Djingo, based on AI developed in association with Deutsche Telekom, and the small matter of a bank, Orange CEO Stephane Richard actually began the operator’s annual ShowHello innovation showcase by talking about network virtualisation.

That may seem a somewhat esoteric topic to kick off a well-presented event that is painted with the sort of gloss you might expect of a major consumer brand launch. There are dancers and music, and CEO Stephane Richard begins his presentation by walking through the audience from the back of the room, picked out by a single spotlights, like a TV evangelist, or someone running a seminar on how to achieve your perfect self.

The boxes you have at home today are the last generation of boxes as you know them

After all this gloss, then, the first touchpoint for Richard is virtualisation – specifically, virtualising consumers’ set-top boxes. Today’s set top boxes have processors in them and do their computing in your home. By virtualising that computing power, and by using the connectivity of its network, tomorrow Orange will be doing those services somewhere else. This is a big breakthrough, Richard says. It means less hardware and more intelligence. The power of the network means unlimited software and unlimited service. Just as an early example, users can record one or more programmes simultaneously and watch them anywhere on any devices. This remote recording service is already available in Romania and will be available in France in 2018.

There’s more. Virtualisation offers a great deal of opportunity to enterprises, Richard says.  Virtualisation means you can choose the exact configuration you want from a much larger service catalogue than before. Truly tailored. Imagine shared 3D printing.

“The boxes you have at home today are the last generation of boxes as you know them,” Richard says. This, of course, is always a truism – but it’s clear what he means.

Orange is a network provider – what can it do with that network? By introducing smarter connectivity everywhere – more fibre, Richard says, and there’s a nod to 5G as well – the operator can introduce a new service environment.

By the end of 2017 the operator will be pushing out software on its WiFi routers that will give “precedence” over the home network to certain services (eg video streaming) and even certain devices. It’s intelligent WiFi, Richard says, providing a real time analysis of the requirements of devices attached to the box in real time.

There will also be the ability to better manage WiFi extenders and access points to get better coverage. “Orange’s myLivebox will be your network control tower, you will be able to use it to manage your network map and give specific requirements and devices preference over others,” Richard says. In time, why should this Livebox functionality not also be virtualised and moved to a remote – if perhaps more local – datacentre? That would give Orange and its customers the ability to manage consumer WiFi from the Cloud, effecting repairs, service upgrades and optimisation remotely, whilst giving Orange the chance to share compute resources.

The third service announcement is for a security service known as CyberFiltre that will use advanced algorithms and analysis in the network to detect unusual or suspicious activity and create a smart filter to protect small enterprises using the Livebox Pro. Again – this service is about the network – by mining network data to establish anomalous patterns, Orange CyberDefence is alerting and protecting banks and other institutions.

Network virtualisation, network intelligence, network security. That’s how Orange said ShowHello in 2017.