The Cellnex Private Networks business including Edzcom has been acquired by Boldyn Networks on 1 March 2024. Positioning Boldyn as the neutral host partner of choice in the growing private networks market and widening our portfolio of wireless solutions. Learn more.

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From private networks to the Pope’s 2025 jubilee: A conversation with Igor Leprince, Group CEO of Boldyn Networks

By Georgia Sweeting, Total Telecom

This article was originally published by Total Telecom on 1 March 2024: From private networks to the Pope’s 2025 jubilee: A conversation with Igor LePrince, CEO of Boldyn Networks  | Total Telecom

At MWC this year, we sat down with Igor Leprince, Group Chief Executive Officer of Boldyn Networks, to discuss their European operations and recent M&A activity

Today, Boldyn Networks has announced the completion of its acquisition of Cellnex’s private networks business.  

The acquisition, which was originally announced in November last year, will primarily consist of Cellnex’s Finnish subsidiary Edzcom, which designs, builds, and operates private 4G and 5G networks in numerous markets across Europe.  

This is quite the turnaround for Cellnex, which itself had only acquired Edzcom in 2020.  

Speaking to Total Telecom at this year’s MWC, Boldyn Group CEO Igor Leprince said that the acquisition was a demonstration of the company’s increasing focus on the growing private network market. 

“Private networks have been one the pillars of our strategy for the last two to three years…. and acquiring probably the biggest private networks company in Europe is very exciting for us,” said Leprince. 

Explaining the acquisition further, Le prince explained that the deal serves three key purposes for Boldyn: 

  1. Acquiring a team of around 40 people who have are experts in deploying and running private networks for the past seven years,
  2. Acquiring the credentials of Cellnex in the verticals in which they operate, such as the oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, and energy sectors, which Boldyn can then make use of in other parts of the world,
  3. and taking over an existing portfolio of over 50 private networks across Europe.

Beyond the company’s M&A activity, Leprince explained how Boldyn has been investing hugely in Italy in preparation for the Pope’s jubilee in 2025, deploying small cells, implementing Wi-Fi coverage on the metro line, and around the main piazza in Rome.  

Leprince emphasised that this has been no easy task, describing the deployment around the city as “difficult” because of the poor quality of existing infrastructure and extensive bureaucracy related to new deployments. 

The project is one of the biggest concessions that the company are sharing with a municipality as part of a joint public–private investment. 

He draws a comparison to its partnership with the city of Sunderland, where Boldyn are deploying new use cases for smart city technology and digital infrastructure, hoping to elevate it to become the UK’s most advanced smart city. There are three networks to make these use cases a reality: a free Wi-Fi network running through the city, a narrowband IoT network, and a 5G network. 

Leprince emphasises that this is something that must be pushed on enterprises and cities to understand. Municipalities need to understand that they cannot afford to wait for operators to invest. They need to contribute to this process themselves if they really want the benefits a highly connected smart city can offer”  

When questioned on “why Sunderland?”, Leprince explained that Sunderland Council and Boldyn shared a vision of the city’s digitalisation as a differentiator to attract investment .  

“The city and Boldyn had the same vision. The city was big enough to be able to play with everything, but small enough (with a population of around 200,000 people) to execute the project.”  

A perfect combination of scale and ambition like this is hard to find, said Leprince, and is greatly helped by the presence of a proactive council.  

Nonetheless, Leprince says there is a major opportunity for the company’s expansion of the neutral host model. Given , the capital expenditure pressure on operators today, Leprince says that there is “no way” that that cities can continue to sustainably deploy connectivity without adopting some form of neutral host approach.  

Catch Boldyn Networks’ partner Sunderland City Council at this year’s Connected North – 22-23 April in Manchester – get your tickets now!