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Cellnex scoops UK private 5G network deal

Cellnex has won a contract to roll out a private 5G network for enterprises in Basingstoke’s central business district.

You could be forgiven for having breezed past this one; it feels like a pretty small – although we don’t have a value – and highly-specific local deal. But it could actually be a sign of both what is to come for Cellnex and the way the wind is blowing for potential suppliers in the private networks space. Essentially, you have to ask whether Cellnex is eating the telcos and the vendors’ lunch here.

The Spanish firm, which has become a household name in the telecoms industry on the back of an aggressive spate of investment in the towers space in recent years, has won a deal through its UK business to design and build a private 5G network in Basing View, a business district that is home to 100-plus companies in the professional and financial services, digital technology, cybersecurity and life sciences sectors. The contract was awarded by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, but is supported by the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Surrey 5G Innovation Centre, and also includes an innovation lab.

Aside from the number of businesses covered by the new network, we don’t have much detail on the scale of this project. But the interesting thing is that it is being rolled out by a towers company, or passive infrastructure specialist, to be more accurate. Well, sort of. The company is diversifying and this deal is an indication of the way things are going.

“Cellnex UK, through its Edzcom business, has deployed over 35 private networks across Europe, including ports, airports, mines, manufacturing plants, refineries and is the ideal partner to deliver Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council plans for economic growth and digital innovation in the area,” said David Crawford, Managing Director of Cellnex UK.

Cellnex acquired Finland-based Edzcom in July last year, essentially buying a company whose business was – and is – and centred on the rollout of private networks for enterprise customers.

Edzcom was essentially highlighted as one to watch in a report looking at the enterprise 5G opportunity published by Omdia and commissioned by BSS firm Beyond by BearingPoint earlier this year. Edzcom forms part of the report’s ‘alternative service providers’ category, whose share of global enterprise 5G projects grew to 27% from just 7% in the same study a year earlier.

“Alternative service provider Edzcom, for example, uses a high-touch approach and has a precise vertical focus and clear market segmentation. Overall, its strategy adapts to what the customer wants – it has a deeper vertical understanding and it does not need to balance diverse company priorities like the larger players do,” the report reads.

That is significant both for alternative players like Edzcom and parent company Cellnex, but also for the bigger names we expect to see in this market. The report essentially concludes that the enterprise space should be a big opportunity for telecoms operators, but thus far they are not capitalising on it.

And this Basingstoke deal for Cellnex surely provides further evidence of that. Meanwhile, we are also used to seeing the big equipment vendors make a lot of noise about private 5G networks, so you could say that Cellnex is treading on their toes too.

One thing is for sure, there is a lot more to this company than flinging up towers and waiting for mobile operators to hitch a ride.

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