Network service provider The Freshwave Group aims to solve UK digital infrastructure challenges
Written by: James Atkinson | Published:
Above: Simon Frumpkin, CEO of Freshwave Group

A new network service provider, The Freshwave Group, launched this week (28 January 2020). It will invest capital and expertise in ways to solve outdoor network challenges, provide neutral host connectivity offerings and in-building cellular connectivity solutions. It also aims to help drive the roll out of 5G digital infrastructure in the UK.

The Freshwave Group brings mobile operators, central and local government and real estate providers together with new collaborative commercial models, including network sharing. Its vision is to make the delivery and operation of digital infrastructure simple, with each division of the business being led by a team of experts focused on indoor, outdoor and mast digital infrastructure.

The Group combines technical telecommunications capability, and commercial savvy from the property sector. With 5,000+ mast site locations, 2,000+ connected buildings and 200+ outdoor networks supported, it already serves a significant portfolio of customers, including the likes of Workspace Group and several central London boroughs and Docklands.

The Group was launched this week by Simon Frumkin, the Group’s newly appointed CEO, who was previously MD of EE’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) Division. The launch was attended by senior leaders from all four mobile network operators, central and local government and real estate providers.

Proving cellular connectivity indoors, particularly for businesses and large organisations, has proved to be a difficult problem to solve. Technically it is not a problem as sophisticated multi-operator small cells are widely available. The difficulty has been to find a viable business model to deliver connectivity solutions for the design, management and operation of, for example, indoor cellular infrastructure. Mobile operators are generally unwilling to pay for indoor coverage, while businesses, developers and building owners, who may well be willing to pay for it, do not have the expertise to deploy the connectivity themselves.

The scale of the problem was highlighted at the launch event by specialist technology firm CCS Insight, which revealed findings from its “Enterprise Connectivity Matters”, a research report exploring the value of digital connectivity to medium and large UK companies.

Two thirds of respondents say their businesses are critically affected within an hour of losing all digital connectivity. While 67% experience office-based mobile signal issues every day. The business impact of these issues includes lost sales, wasting employees’ time and reputational damage.

By offering third party connectivity solutions and adopting a neutral host approach capable of supporting all four UK mobile operators on the same infrastructure, The Freshwater Group hopes to step into the breech and bring all the necessary parties needed to solve connectivity problems together.

The Freshwave Group is backed by Digital Colony, a global investment firm dedicated to strategic opportunities in digital infrastructure. The Group was acquired by Digital Colony between August 2018 and June 2019. The Freshwave Group companies are: StrattoOpencell, iWireless Solutions and Spyder Facilities. The Freshwave Group unites their expertise and customer portfolios with significant capital.

Jeffrey Ginsberg, Managing Director & COO of Digital Colony, said: “With our end to end service capability, and our collaborative approach with all the mobile operators, the Freshwave Group is able to extend our unique approach to digital infrastructure in ways that best suit the UK market.”

Simon Frumkin commented: “High-quality, dependable digital infrastructure is critical to so many, but the UK market has been held back. Particularly by the established infrastructure providers and their aggressive, self-interested commercial approach. We are pioneering collaborative commercial models which recognise the value each party brings and target the outcome that each is trying to achieve. From design and deployment to operation and maintenance, getting mobile networks live isn’t easy. With all the technical challenges and commercial pitfalls, it’s important that everyone involved has a partner they trust,” said Frumkin.

He continued: “With the race to 5G firmly underway, the only way forward is for cross-industry stakeholders to work together because no one group can solve this alone. With asset sharing, co-locating, new joint-funding models and collaborative use of our long-term investment capital, we’ll all boost UK connectivity faster, for less and in the right places. But what’s needed is a fresh approach. The Freshwave Group reimagines the economics and practicalities of digital infrastructure so that our customers can always connect their customers.”

Graham Payne, elevated from co-founder of Opencell to Chairman of the Freshwave Group, added: “A great example is indoor mobile signal. Poor indoor mobile signal is often accepted as standard, but I always believed that with the right business model this could be changed. In 2015 we pioneered multi-operator indoor mobile coverage. By using an often-overlooked technology (small cells) and packaging mobile connectivity like any other critical business utility, we created a way for both our enterprise and mobile operator customers to prioritise solving the problem.”

The CCS Insight report surveyed 500 chief executive officers, general managers, owners, chief information officers, chief technology officers and senior IT-decision makers of UK enterprises with 100-500 employees and with more than 50% of the workforce based in an office. Fieldwork was carried out using an online survey 6th-18th December 2019.

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