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Boldyn Networks Group CEO: Government investment in connectivity crucial

9 July 2024 | London, England

This article was originally posted by Capacity Media on 3 July 2024 here.

As Boldyn Networks turns one, Capacity speaks with Group CEO Igor Leprince to discuss the highlights of its first year, while shedding light on why government investment in connectivity is essential.

When Boldyn Networks launched last year, it had a clear goal: unify the brands and businesses bought and run by its predecessor BAI Communications in the northern hemisphere, and create a more streamlined, easy-to-understand business case for its customers.

One year on, Leprince, tells Capacity that goal has been realised.

“We’re one brand now,” he says. “We’ve always been one company but now we are one brand. So, it’s a lot easier for us to take everything we do worldwide and present it in a single way to our customers.”

As a neutral host business, Boldyn Networks builds fixed and wireless infrastructure, which it then leases to numerous telecoms businesses that use the infrastructure to serve their customers.

One area that Boldyn has experience doing this in is underground transport systems, such as the London Underground, the metro in Rome as part of its Roma 5G project, San Francisco and Hong Kong.

 “We do similar projects for different customers around the world, and they want to make sure that the people that are delivering the project for them are using the experience of what’s happening in these other projects,” he explains.

Leprince says the transit projects Boldyn is working on are a good example of how the brands are now working together closer than ever before.

He believes uniting them under one roof has allowed better customer service on these projects, as it allowed the different brands that were running the projects to share solutions to problems and experiences in their various markets.

When it comes to winning new business, presenting this global experience in a more logical manner under the Boldyn name has had a big impact on the company, Leprince says.

 While being more joined-up in client-facing functions has obvious benefits, there has been change behind the scenes as well.

 The US team for example has been reorganised under one management structure, with Christos Karmis, the CEO of Boldyn Networks US’ business taking responsibility for the four companies, Mobilitie, Signal Point Systems, Transit Wireless and ZenFi Networks that make up the US portfolio.

 In addition, Boldyn has consolidated business support technology such as its HR, finance and internal communication platforms.

If Leprince is to be believed and the market is responding positively to these changes, an employee engagement survey suggests that there has been a positive reaction from Boldyn’s staff as well.

“We’re better able to drive more excitement around our new brand and generate higher employee engagement,” Leprince says.

 “You can see this day-to-day, but there’s some great data to back this up. Immediately after we launched our new brand in June last year, 83% of our employees said they were proud to be part of the Boldyn Networks brand. That rose to 85% in November and now sits at 91% - a phenomenal achievement in a year.”

MNOs can't do it all

Speaking on Boldyn's Roma 5G project, which involves building and upgrading existing connectivity in the metro systems as well as public Wifi in the main square, outdoor small cell deployment fibre rollout and indoor coverage in certain venues, Leprince praises the Italian Government’s willingness to invest.

“It’s always difficult when you want to run public Wifi to do so without a vision from the government and a willingness for them to invest,” he explains.

“Sometimes there is an expectation that mobile operators should be the ones paying, but it’s just too difficult, you can’t expect the MNOs to invest in everything.”

Leprince says that there is a lot of interest in the Roma 5G project, with other cities across Italy looking at the model that has been deployed in Rome to bring connectivity to their own municipality as well.

“Lots of cities are realising that connectivity is key to enterprises, tourism and the efficiency of the city,” he says. “But what’s lacking is the network itself.”

What’s missing though is the willingness to invest themselves. “This vision is good, but the expectation that someone else is going to do it is too much,” he says.

Leprince wants to see more cities follow Rome’s lead and use government money to help fund the rollout.

In the UK, he uses Boldyn’s extensive project with Sunderland City Council as a good example but couldn’t say where Boldyn might begin building next.

The same is true across overground transport networks as well. Lack of connectivity on major rail networks has become a talking point in political circles, but Leprince is keen to point out that they are difficult areas to cover.

“We see the same problems,” he says. “Not only are these difficult projects to run, but there are also difficult business cases. There must be an element of government or train company willingness to fund connectivity. It’s very difficult to expect the operators to build specifically to cover a train.”

Leprince says that Boldyn Networks has been exploring opportunities to build more rail-side connectivity, but that every project they’ve explored has been made much more difficult by a lack of public funding. 

“Public-private partnerships are what we need, whether the network itself is run by a neutral host or individual operators.”

 What does the next year look like?

In addition to prioritising the delivery of its existing projects, Leprince wants to see the reliance on mobile network-funded connectivity diminish over the next year.

“On Boldyn’s second birthday, I would love to say there has been a step up in cities, governments, and enterprises willingness to fund connectivity projects themselves. Ultimately that’s going to be good news for everyone.”

Leprince thinks the neutral host model has come to be accepted as the premier option for deploying connectivity to difficult-to-reach, poorly connected areas.

But the next step is for governments to realise that helping to fund neutral host networks in the same way they fund utilities like power and water is the only way to reach the heights that cities like Sunderland and Rome have achieved.