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Orange deputy CEO backs Huawei partnership

Mari-Noelle Jego-Laveissiere, Orange deputy CEO and recently-appointed head of Europe (excluding France), insisted Huawei remained a key partner for the operator in the region, while reiterating its desire to keep hold of its tower assets in the continent.

Speaking to Mobile World Live a little over three months into the European role, Jego-Laveissiere (pictured) discussed a range of issues currently impacting the operator, including its stance on Huawei, an imminent tower shake-up and the recent launch of 5G services in home market France.

On Huawei, she said the operator had “no issue” with the vendor, which remained significant in its portfolio. But she noted Orange would follow the rules in each of its markets, taking a country-by-country approach to use of its equipment.

Jego-Laveissiere added it was important for Orange to have an open portfolio of vendors “to make sure that none of the external constraints” become a problem.

France has so far not followed the UK in banning Huawei, however the government has suggested operators should avoid buying additional equipment from the vendor.

Jego-Laveissiere added Orange was in a good position in France in terms of Huawei’s share of its network, and it would not require a “massive swap” if stricter rules were enforced.

Towers won’t be sold
Jego-Laveissiere followed Orange CEO Stephane Richard in insisting Orange would not follow European operators in selling off its tower assets to specialist infrastructure company Cellnex.

She said the company would make its position on its towers, rumoured to be worth €10 billion, clearer in February, but it was working on a strategy to accelerate the division.

“We are looking at an opportunity to focus on these as a new business and make sure we can leverage these as strategic assets, which maybe hidden in the company today. It is an opportunity to be our own towerco.”

She added Orange could seek partnerships with other operators, or even financial partners: “As a strategic plan, we are not going to massively sell our towers to Cellnex. We want to keep control.”

France 5G
Jego-Laveissiere also defended the country’s seemingly late roll-out of 5G. Orange and fellow operator Bouygues Telecom both launched services this month, lagging behind other major European nations including the UK, Germany and Italy.

She said Orange had been working on its B2B 5G offering for the past 18 months, and it was important to work with this segment, “adapt their processes and discuss the full potential of 5G”, before implementing a nationwide launch. 

On standalone 5G, Jego-Laveissiere said Orange was starting work with a range of different vendors, testing their core network, and it would continue to do so throughout 2021. Mobile World Live

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