On the surface, the acquisition of local internet service provider EDPnet by Belgium-based Citymesh, which recently identifies itself as a telco” challenger” brand in its home market, holds little interest—at least to RCR’s enterprise readership. The deal, however, in some ways tells the doubtful tale of a private 5G tech-co specialist who, despite not deviating from its original intent to support the growing Industry 4, rose to prominence as the brand’s public rival. 0 market.
Given that EDPnet filed for bankruptcy last winter and sold ( for €20 ), the circumstances surrounding the company’s troubled ownership are intriguing. This spring, operator Proximus received$ 5 million, but Citymesh finally stepped in after the native competition authority forced a resale in the summer. The real entertainment, however, comes from discussing its parallel activities in the private 5G market, where Citymesh hardly qualifies as a” challenger,” and speculating on how everything might come together to form an all-encompassing Industry 4. 0 conundrum.
According to Mitch De Geest, chief executive at Citymesh,” We are a tech-co second, and telco next,” he serves as an allegory of the company’s origins. He describes the fresh agreement for EDPnet in terms of its joint venture with Italian company Digi Communications, which (via cable subsidiary RCS &) is called Digi Belgium; In addition to its home country, RDS operates” challenger” networks in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. It was the last separate operator in Belgium, according to de Geest. The major three operators have purchased all the others. It complements our federal MNO strategy perfectly. We now have 60 employees and 50,000 fixed line customers, all of whom are quite familiar with the consumer and business markets. ”
Digi Belgium spent €114M in June. For the rights to frequencies in the 700, 900, 1800, 2100, and 3600 MHz spectrum bands, it paid pay 33 million. To provide cover while building its own network in the nation, the joint venture company announced a five-year federal roaming agreement with Proximus in August; Additionally, it confirmed the purchase of 400-odd antenna sites from Proximus to begin the rollout. According to De Geest, we still have the public network in place despite having the largest portfolio of [public ] spectrum in 2022. The EDPnet deal actually seems like a good piece of business; It’s not exactly the actual Citymesh story, though.
Because Citymesh, an IT company owned by Cegeka, is managing three additional units concurrently, each of which is more advanced and powerful than a challenger network selling direct telecoms to consumers, also though it aims to overtake Proximus, Telenet, and Orange. The most important of these is its secret networks division, which in Belgium owns dedicated spectrum for private LTE and 5G at 3. 5 GHz ( against in 2015 ) and 2. 6 GHz ( by 2022 ); The latter was expanded last year with an additional 45MHz ( TDD ) tranche that Dense Air purchased. Additionally, it can use the brand-new Digi Belgium airwaves for personal 5G on-site.
De Geest asserts that “our spectrum portfolio is good.” The parallel 3’s open season has only been announced by the Dutch regulator. band in the Netherlands at 6 GHz. Belgium, on the other hand, has not yet made available its registered 100MHz portion of the 3’s dedicated mid-band spectrum for private businesses. The main mode of transportation for cellular-geared Industry 4 is the 5 GHz band, which has multiplied over the past eight years and extends into the North Sea. 0 in the nation and has given Citymesh a significant head start on the international secret mobile market. ” There is no secret spectrum obtainable.” However, we have our unique and have been able to deploy since 2015. He claims that we were among the first in all of Europe.
It has always been successful with Nokia; De Geest claims that Citymesh occasionally deploys a core network from Athonet instead, but the radio units are usually from the Scandinavian company. The same Citymesh unit is also selling ( private ) Wi-Fi on a large scale – to cities and venues, and almost as eagerly. In addition to train stations, people buildings, museums, and stadiums, we have installed WI-Fi in 100 cities in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is a wise city play, but cities are today asking us numerous questions about personal 5G as well. The other two Citymesh divisions collaborate with its commercial networks.
Citymesh has a respectable-looking Sigfox-based ( ‘0G’ ) low-power IoT network running across both Belgium and the Netherlands at the national infrastructure level, which also complements its public network rollout. Beginning in 2023, it acquired VolkerWessels ‘ French side and ENGIE’s French side. When it sold out, ENGIE had about 250,000 Sigfox-based IoT devices on its network. Since then, Citymesh has connected 300,000 water meters from Waterlink in Antwerp. It also has helpful public references with the hospital ZNA and the food retailer Ardo Group for tracking blood transport.
There is a lot going on with IoT, primarily for track-and-trace and logistics, but even for meters and another smart-city applications, according to De Geest. The French network is more recent; Its acquisition coincided with Sigfox’s own ( possibly ) more cautious management of Unabiz, a Taiwan-based company, saving it from bankruptcy. However, the Citymesh plan is to expand the network into Luxembourg ( for the full Benelux experience ) and provide” the total package from 0G to 5G” more widely throughout Europe because, according to the company, connectivity does n’t stop where map borders do. Basically, the common network rollout and the acquisition of EDPnet follow the exact logic.
Enterprise IoT applications of all kinds should be able to roam between private and open networks because we want to connect all of this. De Geest lists its client and candidate sectors: ports, airports, factories, and warehouses in addition to cities and city-venues. ” Hospitals and schools are picking up as well,” he claims. ” We are extremely busy.” Its another division handles the top-level applications; The conventional business unit, which is really focused on drone services, was established after it acquired a nearby industrial robotics company called Drone Division. The Citymesh jigsaw’s final component, however, is much described by industrial IoT and AI solutions, including those that are mechanized in aerial vehicles.
De Geest explains:” Our strategy has always been to build value and solutions, not simply networks.” Therefore, on top of the network layer, we provide support with push-to-talk and video, as well as with body cameras, digital twins, and integrated vehicles. To support local emergency services in Belgium, the new drone division ( Drones Division ) has just launched 70 5G-connected camera-equipped” safety drones.” Before emergency services arrive on the scene, the new service, branded SENSE, will give “police stations and fire stations” a 15-minute physical head start to gather crucial information about incidents.
He says,” We’re trying to tie it all together,” and he bridles a small when it’s implied that network operators today use the cliche”tech-co” to describe themselves. ” It is actually the other way around.” Telcos is attempting to embrace the technological side of things; However, enterprise technology has often been integrated across all layers. Additionally, we are currently evolving into a telco, which may be against the current trend. However, we have access to the entire stack, including the technology, network, infrastructure, and solution layers. According to him, Citymesh has relied on incumbents for the federal network layer up until this point, who occasionally scuffled deals “due to costs.”
It is unique with us as well, he continues, “because we fit much better with the kinds of customers who want personal networks.” At our core, we are a B2B player. B2B is merely a business we conduct with Digi. We are offering a complete solution, not just connectivity. Connectivity is being transformed into useful operating value. We even have a core network on the B2B side to connect ERP systems using slices, network-as-code, and APIs. Additionally, we believe that 5G is primarily used for B2B applications. Because 90 % of the current MNOs ‘ business is with consumers, we are winning contracts over them. “”