Q&A: Mireille Helou, Chief Executive Officer at Orange
The BIG 5G Event: What influenced your career?
Mireille Helou: I’ve always been enthusiast to discover new horizons, curious to learn new things with an open mind to the “potential of possibilities ”. This coupled with a good dose of adaptation, is what I think shaped both my career and life journey. From growing up in a country at war to choosing to study mechanical engineering, then deciding to leave my country of origin just after graduation, to becoming the CEO of Orange Silicon Valley 18 months ago, a journey that took me geographically from the Middle East to Europe, Africa, the Indian Ocean and now the US.
I had the chance to work in different industries and different responsibilities encompassing Sales, Project management, Marketing, Business Development, Sourcing and Supply Chain and Strategy. In the 20 years since I joined Orange, I worked in Business and Corporate roles, in the B2B and B2C markets, in France, Kenya, Reunion Island and now San Francisco. This seems totally in contrast to the current circumstances; by end of 2020 I’d been Working from Home for 10 months, and this is my longest break from travelling in 30 years.
BIG 5G Event: What are the newest 5G innovations coming out of Orange Silicon Valley?
MH: Orange Silicon Valley, is a US subsidiary of Orange. Our focus is on helping Orange and our customers capitalize on the transition to a responsible digital economy. We have been established in the Silicon Valley for 20 years and in New York for one year. Our team of technology and business analysts look at the “new” and the “next” horizons of innovation to make them visible, accessible and actionable.
With 5G the mobile network will be faster, smarter and more efficient. It will achieve much higher speeds and much lower latency. Thanks to these characteristics, 5G will disrupt the mobile experience and open the way for new uses. The technology will also allow companies to use data as soon as it is produced so they can stay more agile, reactive and closer to customer needs.
5G is a groundbreaking technology by itself, yet the real game changer is the conjunction of 5G - natively Software based - with other trends such as Telco Cloud, Public Cloud, Edge Computing, AI/ML manifestation in processes and functions, and the emergence of Application Delivery Networks (where data and compute is delivered where and when it is required as latency becomes the dominant feature for application performance).
Our team’s focus is on exploring and analyzing the technologies that are contributing to this shift.
Beyond hands on evaluation of available vRAN, Cloud Edge, and EPC, we are looking for example at enterprise and consumer Cloud XR use cases delivered over a 5G edge platform and at Private mobile Network using CBRS and then 5G for mission critical IoT use cases.
Exploring sub 5 ms use cases such as the Haptic Internet which can revolutionize how we do medicine as well as how we virtually “feel”, is next as soon as Stand Alone 5G is available.
BIG 5G Event: In your opinion, what is the impact of COVID-19 on 5G in North America? How did it impact the Orange Group and are there any challenges or learnings you can share from over the past few months.
MH: The global pandemic was an unexpected catalyst for 5G especially when it comes to enterprise 5G which was boosted by a push on focus on automation and virtual favouring 5G powered IoT, AR/VR, computer vision, autonomous systems, and robotics in all industries. Mobile devices were most impacted by COVID as factories were shutdown.
In the US, the pandemic hasn’t had a significant impact on the rollout of 5G networks, probably because the actual process of upgrading cell towers and equipment can be mostly done while social distancing. However the limited ability to get into labs and perform required tests, may have contributed to the delay of some features including DSS, and the 5G specification rollout.
Orange’s Consumer footprint is in Europe and Africa where the spectrum licencing calendars are different. The Covid-19 health crisis caused some delays in spectrum licensing processes in France, Spain and Poland.
Orange had already launched commercial services in Romania in November 2019. Upcoming is Spain. The acceleration will continue in 2020 with the frequency allocations in France and Poland, and a view to a rapid commercial launch thereafter.
On the positive side this crisis, made the importance of networks’ resilience obvious to everyone.
BIG 5G Event: What are you most looking forward to with this years’ virtual edition of the event?
MH: The Big 5G event is a great opportunity to keep up to date on 5G and explore what is likely to shape the way forward.