Fibre is also increasingly used to connect our mobile base stations, on one hand to boost capacity to withstand growing data consumption and on the other hand to ensure greater reliability of the network. At the end of 2017, 58% of our mobile base stations were connected to backbone through fibre. Not only cable infrastructure is shared between mobile and fixed networks but also higher network layers like core, control and service platforms. Our network is expected to undergo gradual transition to fully IP-based in the years ahead, which will require elimination of certain network elements (e.g. PSTN stack).
Access network based on technological evolution, local approach and customer demand
To ensure the best connectivity and optimum resource allocation we take into account the specifics of local markets. In cities, we are focusing on the development of Fibre to the Home (FTTH) coverage, whereas in less densely populated areas copper-based technologies, supplemented by mobile ones, are the primary broadband access solution.
In the fixed network we stepped up our intensive deployment of fibre. At the end of the year our fibre access network covered almost 2.5 million households in 75 cities. In the mobile network, thanks to LTE 800 rollout based on frequencies purchased in 2016, we were able to ensure almost 100% coverage with our 4G network. In response to the growing demand for high-speed internet access, Orange Polska is also steadily increasing the number of locations supported by LTE. Currently OPL operates on 5500 LTE 800 MHz and 2400 LTE 2600 MHz stations, and 3920 of them support Carrier Aggregation technology (4G+), which multiplies available bandwidth.
Over the coming years 5G technology will gain importance. In 2017 the “5G for Poland” agreement was signed, addressed to all interested parties: Ministry of Digital Affairs, the Office of Electronic Communications, telecommunications operators, economic chambers, providers of telecommunications services, equipment and solutions, research and development institutions, and technical universities and Polish start-ups. The aim of the agreement is to develop a “5G for Poland” strategy which will later be adopted by the Council of Ministers.
Orange Polska has also started its 5G launch preparations. We are the first operator in Poland to have tested vRAN (Virtualized Radio Access Network), which is one of the important components towards 5G.
Network reliability and resilience requires the adoption of self-healing network mechanisms and constant quality monitoring. We are capable of monitoring service quality not only at the statistical level but also from the perspective of an individual customer. We are proactive in our approach and respond before parameters start to deteriorate, preventing network congestion. We want to ensure the same connectivity experience, whether customers use our mobile or fixed networks.
The significant increase of security incidents in the online economy has led to growing customer demand for cybersecurity. Therefore we set up our Security Operations Centre (SOC), serving Orange Polska and Orange Group affiliates. We have introduced security services for individuals (e.g. Cybershield) and business customers. Orange Polska’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) operates around the clock, taking care of all cybersecurity issues that impact users who access the internet through the Orange Polska network. CERT Orange Polska is also a part of the national cybersecurity ecosystem.
To increase the efficiency of our infrastructure, legacy technologies and solutions which are mainly voice-oriented are being replaced with a converged network capable of handling all types of traffic: voice, data and video. We implement solutions that fully support IP technology, and, thanks to self-healing and dynamic reconfiguration mechanisms, provide for higher service quality while improving cost-effectiveness. In our efforts to provide customers with the best network in Poland we leverage our own investment by using third party infrastructure and benefiting from EU funds for network construction.
On the mobile side, we co-operated with T-Mobile to set up Networks!, a company responsible for network construction and network operation. We share sites infrastructure (over 10,000 shared sites) and frequency resources (in the 1800 MHz band), which enabled the fast introduction of 4G and optimisation of operational costs. We are also actively looking for opportunities for fibre coverage enhancement.
In areas where we are planning to upgrade our network to high-speed, we are also using modern third party infrastructure to supplement our own investments, if a reasonable commercial arrangement can be made. In 2017 we signed several agreements, which extended coverage of our VHBB services by over 200,000 households.
We participate in the national Operational Programme ’Digital Poland’ (POPC). From 2014-2020, POPC is implementing EU Digital Agenda objectives in Poland and providing EU funds to support network construction in areas where standalone commercial investment is not profitable. That will allow us to upgrade our network to high-speed capabilities in less populous areas.
Orange Polska is now carrying out projects won during the second POPC competition stage. These include the supply of fast Internet connections (at least 100 Mbps) to 423 districts. About 2,900 schools operating there will be also connected to super-fast internet. This means that, along with the investments that Orange Polska carries out from its own funds as part of the National Education Network, in the coming years we will connect optical fibre to almost 7,400 schools.