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Orange, VCs Commit $113M to Network Startups as 'Black Box' Frustration Mounts

Orange, VCs Commit $113M to Network Startups as 'Black Box' Frustration Mounts | cross pond high tech |

Orange and four venture capitalist partners have promised to invest up to €100 million ($113 million) in telecom infrastructure startups over the next three to four years.


The funding will support startups challenging equipment incumbents like Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) as telcos embrace disruptive network technologies based on software, virtualization and open source code.


The news is the latest sign of Orange's desire to play a more influential role in the development of network technologies and reflects growing frustration with the traditional vendors.

It came as the French service provider said it would begin nurturing network startups for the first time in partnership with social media giant Facebook, which has also become more active in the networks sector over the past year.


The two companies already collaborate through the Telecom Infra Project, a Facebook-led initiative that was launched in early 2016 with a goal of more rapidly commercializing low-cost and innovative network technologies. (See Facebook: TIP Will Open Telecom Hardware.)


Four startups, chosen from a pool of 22 applicants, will receive support from Orange(NYSE: FTE) and Facebook and be invited to a TIP summit in California in November, where they will be able to meet operator members.


TIP now counts about 450 members including "all of the most important mobile operators" in the world, claimed Steve Jarrett, Facebook's head of infrastructure partnerships for Europe and the Middle East.


The winning startups are

  • Amarisoft, a developer of virtual radio access network technology,
  • Athonet, which specializes in mobile core "softwarization,"
  • Adipsys, whose systems are already helping Orange to manage WiFi hotspots, and
  • Horizon Computing, which claims to have made breakthroughs on reducing the costs of running data centers.

Orange Fab, the division that looks after all startup activities for the French telco, has launched a new program called Telecom Track to look after the startups from the network and infrastructure sector.


Startups will also be eligible to receive financial support from Orange Digital Ventures, the French operator's investment fund, as well as venture capital partners Iris Capital, Innovacom, Cathay Innovation and Breega Capital, although funding for the Telecom Track players is not guaranteed.


"Those who grow fast and strike partnerships and scale internationally will get the money," said Julien-David Nitlech, a partner at Iris Capital.


While €100 million ($113 million) may seem like a relatively small amount in the context of the broader network equipment market, the sudden willingness of venture capitalists to support new infrastructure players may alarm the established vendors.


"The market has historically not had a lot of venture financing," said Jarrett. "We hope to change that."

Facebook colleague Min Jun added: "We thought the investor community would need more convincing and we have seen major traction. Investors are saying we believe in this and will commit funds."

Facebook will not make any direct equity investments but says it is "conceivable" that it could acquire startups in the accelerator program.

By helping to reduce network costs, and making it easier to deploy networks in areas that currently lack connectivity, the social networking giant hopes to get more people online and using its services, it is widely assumed.


For Orange, the ultimate goal is a complete overhaul of the way it has traditionally built networks.


"We cannot be dependent on long standardization processes anymore," said Etienne Moreau, an investment manager at Orange Digital Ventures. "If we want to have control of our technology and be a software company we need to get into new technologies like white boxes and get rid of the black boxes we have sourced from equipment vendors."

With white boxes, telcos would run network software on commercial, off-the-shelf servers, instead of relying on the "black boxes" that combine proprietary hardware and software.

Orange has previously flagged its interest in white boxes and noted the challenge they pose to equipment suppliers such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which has come under pressure to adapt its own technology and business model accordingly. (See Orange Plots Mass Network-as-a-Service Rollout and Cisco Takes Bold Software Step to Counter White Box Threat – Report.)


Bertrand Rojat, the deputy vice president of Orange's Technocentre research-and-development unit, told Light Reading that, as well as forming a "commercial relationship" with startups, Orange was eager to make their technology available to some of its telco partners.


Besides other service providers involved with TIP, that could include the members of Go Ignite.

"That is an initiative between Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and SingTel," he said. "If we have a startup that is good for one of us then it might be good for all of us."

Such moves could help the startup technologies to gain the scale they would need to be commercially viable in wide area networks.

Much like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) in the US, Orange appears to be stepping into roles that vendors have traditionally performed as it tries to seize control of network development and sever the ties that have previously bound it to a small number of big players.


Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

Extremely interesting post following Orange Fab's latest press release, as it delivers several key hints :

1/ It took Facebook and OCP (and then more recently TIP) for Telcos to finally realize that becoming a giant purchasing department and outsourcing infrastructure (and knowledge) to a handful of equipment vendors was not the only way. We are still very early but still, a few giants wake up.

2/ Open Source will redefine Hardware the same way it flipped Software ; only pending question is "Who will be the Red Hat of Open Hardware ?"

3/ #HardwareIsNotDead and Deep Tech is back with more and more VC's looking (back) into it !

Congratulations to Orange and Iris Capital for paving the way !

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Fully homomorphic encryption, or how to perform operations over encrypted data | Orange Research blog

Fully homomorphic encryption, or how to perform operations over encrypted data | Orange Research blog | cross pond high tech |

Can we outsource medical analysis without giving away our medical information? Can we do biometrical identification without revealing our characteristics? Can we make statistics on data that we do not know? Yes we can, thanks to a cryptographic mechanism called “homomorphic encryption”.

Cryptography has known many transformations over the years. Many centuries ago, it was first used to protect military and political communications. Though very simple, the mechanisms then devised are still the foundation of current cryptography. The introduction of the computer during Second World War considerably increased the computation capacity. This increase reflected on cryptography in the late 70’s, when public key cryptography was invented. Cryptography became a thriving scientific field. Numerous academic works were produced, commercial standards were set and cryptographic algorithms began to secure our daily life. Today, cryptography is everywhere: in our credit cards, in our phone communications, in our internet browsing, etc.
But new services are today under deployment, such as mobile services, cloud computing, BigData or IoT. These services generate and process a huge amount of personal and sensitive information. As users become more and more concerned about their privacy, and industries want to protect their sensitive data, a new challenge arises for cryptography. Indeed, if this data was to be simply encrypted, processing it would be impossible. This leaves users and service providers with a dilemma: choose between usability and confidentiality of these sensitive data. Here comes fully homomorphic encryption!

Philippe J DEWOST's curator insight, February 14, 2017 10:57 AM

Here is a fantastic "paper" by Orange Research that deciphers homomorphic encryption in a very clear way, and outlines its future and challenges.

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Orange étudie un rachat de Bouygues Telecom

Orange étudie un rachat de Bouygues Telecom | cross pond high tech |

Les actionnaires du groupe Bouygues monteraient au capital d’Orange. Le projet serait soumis à l’accord des autorités européennes de la concurrence.


L’Etat, actionnaire à 27 % d’Orange, a plusieurs préoccupations. D’abord, éteindre l’incendie sociale qui semble couver dans les télécoms, en raison d’une vive concurrence par les prix. Bouygues Telecom agite deux épouvantails  :  un plan de suppression d’emplois qui pourrait toucher 2000 personnes  sur un peu moins de 9.000 ; et une guerre des prix dans le fixe qui risque de se traduire elle aussi par des réductions d’effectifs chez tous les opérateurs.

Si Orange avalait Bouygues Telecom, le plan de 2.000 suppressions d’emplois n’aurait plus lieu d’être, explique Sébastien Crozier, à la CFE-CGC d’Orange : « 2.000 emplois, c’est quatre mois d’attrition naturelle chez nous. En gardant ces emplois on ne ferait que retarder de 4 mois le plan de départs d’Orange... et nous serions très contents de voir arriver ces salariés qui rajeuniraient notre pyramide des âges. »

Philippe J DEWOST's insight:


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Facebook's Open Compute guru Frank Frankovsky leaves to build optical storage startup

Facebook's Open Compute guru Frank Frankovsky leaves to build optical storage startup | cross pond high tech |

Frank Frankovsky, Facebook’s vice president of hardware design and supply chain optimization, who helped oversee the development and growth of the company’s custom server effort, has left the social networking company to form his own as-yet-unnamed startup that will focus on building optical storage for the enterprise.

In an interview, Frankovsky said he had resigned from Facebook last week to pursue this idea. Meanwhile, Jason Taylor, Facebook’s director of infrastructure, has assumed responsibility for the hardware design and supply chain teams at Facebook and will continue working with the Open Compute Project on Facebook’s behalf.

Taylor has been overseeing much of that work for the last year, according to Facebook, and he will also be joining the Open Compute Foundation board along with Bill Laing, corporate VP of Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft. This brings the OCP Foundation board from five to seven participants. Frankovsky, who will remain chairman and president of the OCP board, will stay as an independent member.

Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

Hardware is not dead. It is just evolving #OCP

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Orange s’associe à Facebook pour le lancement d’un accélérateur de start-up centré sur l’innovation des infrastructures réseau

Orange s’associe à Facebook pour le lancement d’un accélérateur de start-up centré sur l’innovation des infrastructures réseau | cross pond high tech |

Facebook et Orange, en tant que membres du Telecom Infra Project (TIP) lancent au sein de l’Orange Fab France un nouvel accélérateur « Telecom Track », conçu spécifiquement pour soutenir les start-up centrées sur le développement des infrastructures réseau.
Les start-up sélectionnées seront accompagnées par Orange et bénéficieront d'un accès à son réseau mondial de ressources ainsi que du soutien des Ecosystem Accelerator Centres du TIP (TEAC) et de Facebook.
Orange collabore avec le TIP* et Facebook afin de soutenir des start-up centrées sur l’innovation des infrastructures réseau en lançant le nouveau « Telecom Track » dans le cadre de son programme d'accélération Orange Fab en France. Ce partenariat recherchera les meilleures innovations et talents du secteur, soutiendra et conseillera les start-up avec l’aide des experts Orange, TIP et Facebook, et facilitera en parallèle la création de réseaux et les opportunités d’investissement internes et externes.

Le « Telecom Track » d’Orange Fab France

Le projet sera géré par Orange Fab France, le programme d’accélération d’Orange pour les start-up, depuis le site d’Orange Gardens, un éco-campus situé à Châtillon, près de Paris entièrement dédié à la recherche et à l’innovation. En contact direct avec les  meilleurs experts d’Orange et de ses partenaires, les start-up pourront aborder  les questions majeures relatives aux réseaux, allant de leur gestion jusqu’aux nouvelles technologies d’accès, et ce dans plusieurs régions.
Les start-up bénéficieront de tous les avantages du programme Orange Fab existant, au sein duquel elles participeront à des ateliers dédiés et des sessions de tutorat avec des spécialistes. Elles recevront un financement optionnel de 15 000 € et auront accès à un espace de travail sur le site d’Orange Gardens, où sont basées les équipes de recherche et d'innovation du Groupe. En complément du support du réseau mondial Orange Fab, les start-up pourront consulter également des experts de la communauté du TIP, des TEAC et de Facebook. Ce cadre leur permettra d’établir des connections privilégiées avec les équipes d’innovation, les partenaires d'investissement et les investisseurs en capital-risque qui pourront leur apporter une expertise plus poussée et des financements potentiels afin de lancer de nouveaux produits et services.

L’appel à projets démarre aujourd’hui et les candidats ont jusqu’au 14 mai 2017 pour soumettre leur candidature. Trois semaines plus tard, les start-up sélectionnées rejoindront le programme d’accélération et auront l’opportunité de participer en juin à un événement de lancement organisé par Orange qui réunira des cadres d’Orange, du TIP et de Facebook, ainsi que des partenaires et investisseurs en capital-risque. Une fois avancées dans le processus d’accélération, les start-up sélectionnées seront invitées à intervenir lors d'un événement des TEAC qui se tiendra à San Francisco à la fin de l’année.
Les candidats doivent être basés en France et les projets doivent être soumis sur le site

« Dans le cadre de l’évolution de notre réseau vers la 5G et les technologies futures, l’opportunité d’innovation au niveau des réseaux est énorme, et il est essentiel de soutenir les grands esprits et les talents qui développeront l’innovation dans le domaine des télécommunications », a déclaré Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Vice-présidente exécutive Innovation, Marketing et Technologies d’Orange. « Nous pensons que notre partenariat avec Facebook et le lancement du nouveau Telecom Track nous permettra d’encourager et de soutenir cette communauté de start-up qui a la possibilité de faire bouger les choses au sein de cet espace et de développer de nouvelles innovations dans les télécommunications. »
« Facebook est impatient de collaborer avec Orange et le TIP afin de soutenir cet accélérateur de start-up », a déclaré Jay Parikh, Directeur Ingénierie et Infrastructure chez Facebook. « En travaillant conjointement, nous espérons aider à identifier et soutenir l’innovation des infrastructures réseau des télécommunications tout en préparant la voie vers de futures découvertes. »  

L’engagement d’Orange Digital Ventures

Afin d’accélérer encore davantage le développement des start-up participantes, Orange Digital Ventures soutiendra ce nouveau « Telecom Track » et apportera des conseils pour le financement ainsi que des opportunités de création de réseau via Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) à travers ses partenariats d’investisseurs. Orange Digital Ventures contribue d’ores et déjà activement à la transformation du paysage des télécommunications à travers son portefeuille d’investissements, et pourra éventuellement contribuer au financement de certaines des start-up participantes.

*Orange fait partie du Telecom Infra Project (TIP), une initiative mondiale centrée sur l’ingénierie qui vise à transformer l’approche traditionnelle afin de construire et de déployer des infrastructures réseau de télécommunications.

Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

Enfin un opérateur télécom qui s'intéresse de plus près et de manière visible et assumée à l'Open Hardware, au projet OCP, et au Telecom Infra Project, et ce en s'appuyant sur des startups ! Il aura fallu 4 ans pour évangéliser et labourer le terrain.

En dehors d'Horizon Computing Solutions et AirLynx, quelles sont les autres startups à router vers Orange Fab et Orange Digital Ventures ?

Nous assistons à la fin du cycle des architectures hardware propriétaires ; qui sera le RedHat de cette nouvelle révolution ?

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LoRa May Not Be for Long Haul at Orange

LoRa May Not Be for Long Haul at Orange | cross pond high tech |

On the face of it, Orange has made a pretty strong commitment to LoRa, one of a crop of low-power, wide-area (or LPWA) network technologies designed to support more rudimentary Internet of Things (IoT) services. 

In November, the French incumbent revealed it was building a LoRa network in 17 of France's biggest cities and would gradually roll out the network on a nationwide basis thereafter. A few months earlier, its venture capital arm, Orange Digital Ventures, stumped up $3 million of the $25 million in funding then raised by Actility, a French company developing OSS and BSS functionality for LoRa deployments. (See Telcos Invest in IoT Tech Startup.)

Yet Orange (NYSE: FTE) has acknowledged that LoRa is far from ideal. As an "open" technology, it holds strong attractions for the service provider over Sigfox, another LPWA technology that is fully proprietary. But this openness combined with LPWA's reliance on unlicensed spectrum is also problematic, admits Luc Bretones, the executive vice president of Orange's Technocentre-named product and design facilities.

Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

May LoRa be as transitional as it looks promising ? Orange's indoor push through combining LoRa lamps with employee crowd-deployment is interesting nonetheless, as is its ambition to cover France by the end of 2016.

But with Intel reportedly readying a line of LTE-narrowband chips in the "couple of bucks" price range we could see the IoT landscape continue to evolve fast as Telcos will try to regain control.

Emmanuel HAVET's curator insight, March 18, 2016 6:16 AM

May LoRa be as transitional as it looks promising ? Orange's indoor push through combining LoRa lamps with employee crowd-deployment is interesting nonetheless, as is its ambition to cover France by the end of 2016.

But with Intel reportedly readying a line of LTE-narrowband chips in the "couple of bucks" price range we could see the IoT landscape continue to evolve fast as Telcos will try to regain control.

michel verstrepen's curator insight, March 18, 2016 8:53 AM

May LoRa be as transitional as it looks promising ? Orange's indoor push through combining LoRa lamps with employee crowd-deployment is interesting nonetheless, as is its ambition to cover France by the end of 2016.

But with Intel reportedly readying a line of LTE-narrowband chips in the "couple of bucks" price range we could see the IoT landscape continue to evolve fast as Telcos will try to regain control.

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AT&T's expanded 1 Gbps fiber rollout could go head to head with Google

U.S. broadband giant AT&T could roll out 1Gbps fiber-optic service to up to 21 new metropolitan areas, including Atlanta,   Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, California, the company said Monday.


The company's rollout of its U-verse broadband with GigaPower service will also include television service. AT&T had previously   announced plans to build ultra-fast broadband in Austin and Dallas in Texas and in Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem, North   Carolina.


The company will work with local leaders and groups to discuss ways to bring the ultra-fast broadband service to communities,   the company said in a press release. Communities that have suitable network facilities, and show the strongest investment   deals, based on anticipated demand and the most receptive policies, will influence the company's selections, AT&T said.

Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

1 Gb/s is the new frontier. Google paved the way and now it's expanding. Sony's network in Tokyo even tops 2Gb/s though I wonder how many users actually have the appropriate Ethernet or WiFi interface to deal with such a throughput.


In France Orange is rolling out 500 Mb/s down / 200 Mb/s up which is not too bad. I currently enjoy 300 down / 50 up at home already.

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"Cloud français": l'Etat va investir 75 millions d'euros dans le projet Orange-Thales

L'Etat, via le Fonds national pour la société numérique (FSN), va investir 75 millions d'euros dans le projet alliant les entreprises Orange et Thales, pour développer une "centrale numérique" (cloud computing) qui stockera les données informatiques stratégiques françaises.
Il s'agit du premier investissement de ce fonds, lancé en mars 2011, ont souligné dans un communiqué commun le ministre de l'Industrie et de l'Economie numérique Eric Besson et le Commissaire général à l'investissement René Ricol.
Le FSN dispose d'un total de 4,25 milliards d'euros, dont une partie est destinée à accompagner en investissement les acteurs développant de nouveaux usages, services et contenus numériques. Sa gestion est assurée par la Caisse des Dépôts.
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