Stepping up to the plate

At the time of writing, the entire world is going through a very challenging time, and no-one is able to say with any kind of certainty when it might end. Guided by our purpose, we are helping to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic wherever we can. As an essential service provider, we are proud of the way our Orange teams have really stepped up to the plate.

“As a trusted partner, Orange gives everyone the keys to a responsible digital world.” Such is our purpose, which informs the role that drives us and brings us together as a community. It reflects where we’ve come from and paves the way for where we’re going. By integrating our purpose into the company bylaws, it forms the central element to who we are and the precious relationships that connect us with our customers and all our stakeholders. Our purpose becomes all the more meaningful during this health crisis that has spread from China to the entire world. In this unprecedented crisis, the Orange group has an essential part to play in all its operating countries. That’s because our networks help organise the emergency response under unrelenting pressure, they have had to cope with a huge number of different digital uses and remote working, and they are enabling us all to stay in touch with one another, maintaining social ties. Our data can also be very useful for public authorities trying to anticipate the spread of the virus and adapt the availability of healthcare in certain countries.

I am very proud that a business like ours is orienting its expertise and innovation capabilities to serve the public interest in strict compliance with data protection requirements. Our data can also be very useful for public authorities trying to anticipate the spread of the virus and adapt the availability of healthcare in certain countries. I am very proud that a business like ours is orienting its expertise and innovation capabilities to serve the public interest in strict compliance with data protection requirements.

The mobilisation we have seen across our businesses and regions has been incredible. I would like to thank everyone at Orange, especially those out in the field – our teams are working day and night to keep operations ticking over. I would also like to thank those behind the great many acts of kindness seen throughout the Group. It warms my heart to see Orange demonstrate such community spirit in these difficult times.

Our purpose also binds us and fuels our strategy, as reflected in the new Engage 2025 strategic plan. It ensures we fulfil our environmental and societal commitment, where our primary focus is promoting digital equality. We are keen to further improve inclusion by tackling the digital divide. Our initial response involves rolling out networks in rural areas – the easiest answer given our operator model. This is especially true in France, as part of the New Deal and Public Initiative Networks but also in Africa and the Middle East, where the Group leverages innovative technical solutions to expand coverage in rural areas. Contrary to what people may think, the digital divide isn’t due to a lack of coverage. Indeed, one of the main obstacles to getting people online is their lack of know-how and resources. That’s why, in all our operating countries, we promise to help people access digital technology and teach them how to use it. We’re also deploying special plans for low-income families in Europe and we’ll continue to offer ever-more affordable smartphones in Africa and the Middle East.

Our second focus is to address the climate emergency, which undoubtedly represents the greatest challenge facing humanity. It affects people of all ages, across the world and in all areas of the economy, and I firmly believe we can play an essential role in the transition to a low-carbon world. That’s why we’ve set ourselves an ambitious target to achieve the commitments undertaken by the telecoms industry to reach net carbon zero by 2040, 10 years ahead of schedule, despite the considerable surge in uses and data on our networks. To do so, we will increase the proportion of renewable energies we use and make unprecedented strides forwards in energy efficiency, largely due to our investment in the networks of the future. For example, fibre uses on average three times less energy than ADSL, and 5G outperforms all other networks for an equivalent consumption.

This core commitment runs through our entire strategic plan, which is structured around four ambitions.

The first is to reinvent our operator model by capitalising on our leading position in networks. The telecoms industry is at a critical junction. It has to invest heavily in the networks of the future, despite increasingly intense competition, with OTT providers continuing to permeate the telecoms industry. At Orange more specifically, we are keenly aware that our unique selling points – our deployments and network quality – are becoming less of a factor. We therefore have to completely overhaul our operator model in Europe to identify news ways to offer customers enhanced fibre broadband and 5G mobile connectivity. This enriched performance will bring about speeds of up to 10 Gb/s and a multitude of new services such as immersive content, smart home services, edge computing and massive IOT (Internet of Things).

Furthermore, we will completely reinvent our operator model by developing our infrastructure and diversifying into other areas. We will continue to invest in our own fibre technology while at the same time identify investor partners for certain deployments, particularly through Public Initiative Networks in France. Orange will also step up the transition from copper to fibre in France. We will develop mobile network RAN sharing agreements while maintaining our points of difference and developing TowerCos in most of our operating countries in Europe.

Beyond our core business, the second ambition of the Engage 2025 plan is to accelerate in growth areas, including Africa and the Middle East, BtoB and financial services. In Africa and the Middle East, we aim to become the reference digital operator through several effective growth drivers, such as mobile data and a multi-service strategy in energy, e-health and content.

BtoB and IT services represent the second growth area for the Group. More than ever, we believe in bringing together telecoms and IT businesses, as reflected in the incredible surge in interest for on-demand and virtual connectivity services. We will take advantage of our local presence and recognised position as market leader to offer our business customers the best connectivity through 5G and fibre. Above all else, we will continue to expand our integration services in cybersecurity, the cloud, smart mobility and data intelligence.

Orange will look to financial services as the third growth area. The banking licence we have recently been granted will enable us to supplement our Orange Money payment and money transfer services in Africa with banking services such as micro-credit deals. In Europe, we will capitalise on the considerable success achieved by Orange Bank, rolling out these services in all our operating countries by 2025 and we will put together packages combining banking and telecoms services to develop new products in payments, credit and insurance.

The third ambition of our strategic plan involves placing data and AI at the heart of our innovation model so as to enter a new stage in our digital transformation. I am convinced these new technologies offer considerable potential that will make it possible to redefine the customer experience to offer the best physical and digital services. We will develop an “enhanced” customer experience in which services are easy to use, specialised and responsible. Orange will also use AI and data to improve its networks, initially by optimising its deployments and management of mobile sites.

The fourth ambition of the Engage 2025 strategic plan seeks to tackle the skills challenge. In 2025, the company’s profile will be considerably different from what it is today. We will be more international, with 50% of our workforce employed outside France, compared with 38% currently. The proportion of BtoB employees will have nearly doubled compared with 2015 levels and we will need twice as many specialists in cutting-edge technologies. To support these changes, we will put in place an ambitious upskilling and professional reorientation programme open to all employees. Further to our focus on strengthening the skills we already have within the Group, we must also attract top talent from outside Orange, which is why our strategy prioritises increasing the appeal of the company. Orange aims to rank among the 10 most popular companies for university graduates.

Our growth plan may be ambitious, but we believe it is entirely achievable. Once we have overcome this virus that is currently confining and isolating us, we will be able to look to the future. The most important thing we can do right now is help the authorities, support hospitals and healthcare workers, provide essential services to our customers and take care of one another.

We can be proud of the fact that we really have stepped up to the plate since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. I would like to sincerely thank all our employees on the front line working to maintain our networks and serving our customers in the few stores that have remained open, as well as everyone working from home in conditions that are sometimes far from ideal. You are keeping our company going and safeguarding essential services in our operating countries.

We are living in a very difficult time, and no-one can say when things might settle back down, but the crisis is likely to last for quite a while. That’s why we need to stay focused and stick together. Together, we will come through this challenge stronger, more united and more solid than ever.

But until then, take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Stéphane Richard