The Belgian arm of operator group Orange has opened another 5G lab, this time in Liège, which is focused on standalone 5G use cases.

Orange has been one of the more pro-active operators when it comes to trying to work out what the point of 5G is. This isn’t even its first 5G lab in Belgium, having opened one in Antwerp a year ago. Meanwhile France is the location for no less than Europe’s first 5G SA fully end-to-end experimental cloud network, as well as a special lab dedicated to Open RAN.

The latest one in Liège seems designed to incubate and showcase specific use cases that make use of whatever unique capabilities 5G SA bestows upon those tech innovators enterprising enough to take the plunge. There are apparently ‘over eight’ of them to start with, which seems like a needlessly convoluted way of saying ‘nine’, but only three of them are highlighted in the press release.

The Augmented Ramp Agent concerns people who handle air cargo, often in tricky weather conditions. An industrial RealWear smart-glass connected on a stable 5G private network hopes to make their job a lot easier and error-free. Then there’s some kind of human robot presence in a digital twin system, also involving augmented reality in some way, and some kind of automated fork-lift truck that can be remote controlled via 5G.

“After the opening of our first Orange 5G Lab in Antwerp and its great success in generating a positive dynamic in the region, we are delighted to be able to develop 5G and its applications in Wallonia as well,” said Xavier Pichon, CEO of Orange Belgium. “Here we will be able to facilitate the innovation and creativity of local actors and demonstrate 5G’s potential in a fully transparent manner, while basing ourselves on a first-class national and international network.

“We aim to cover 40% of the population with 5G by 2023 and 90% by 2025. Moreover, this approach supports the Walloon economic recovery plan and fits within its objectives to support start-ups, stimulate innovation, foster sustainability and assist training and economic development.”

While is great to see such examples of the telecoms industry seeking to catalyze and expand the use of the technologies it offers, this sort of thing also reinforces the impression of 5G being a solution in search of problems. We already know it has little to offer consumers that they don’t already get from 4G so the search for returns on 5G investments is taking place mostly in the B2B space. The above use cases show promise but still seem somewhat niche and well short of anything that could be termed a ‘killer app’.

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