The private networks market will reach 40,000 million euros by 2025.
Digitalization is shaping a perfect ecosystem for the reinvention of production processes in what some call the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.
The use of private wireless connectivity is now a reality that allows companies to streamline their processes, improve their margins, security, and performance, and at the same time provides a source of knowledge and situational awareness that allows them to find scalable solutions and gives them a vision of the future.
According to Reportlinker data, the global virtual private network market amounted to €21.364 billion in 2020 and will grow to nearly €40 billion by the end of 2025.
In this niche operates Edzcom, a Cellnex company, originated in Finland, specialised in designing, building and operating edge connectivity solutions – private 4G/5G networks for industrial environments such as ports, airports, manufacturing, energy, or mines to boost safety and efficiency through connectivity solutions between equipment, people, and infrastructure in a single network.
Telecom infrastructure operator Cellnex saw the potential and complementarity of Edzcom in a key activity for the 5G ecosystem and integrated it into its business in mid-2020 with a clear plan of replicating the activity in the 12 countries in which it operates.
“The impact of the Cellnex acquisition is huge,” explains Mikko Uusitalo, Managing Director at Edzcom and General Manager of Mission Critical & Private Networks at Cellnex Telecom, in an interview. “We used to focus mostly on Finland, and a little bit on Sweden, and the acquisition is an opportunity for massive scale in Europe.”
With its 30 employees, it says it is poised to lead the process of private digitization in Europe by leveraging the synergies, knowledge, and firepower that Cellnex brings.
“Right now, we are the biggest in Europe and we want to stay that way and expand. We want to continue to be the leader. There is no second place in this race,” he says.
Most of today’s private wireless networks are based on 4G technology, but the deployment of the fifth generation is behind the expected explosion, as speed and low latency will open up new horizons linked to robotization and process analysis and digital twin models, which combine the physical and virtual worlds.
“The catalyst for this market is digitization at a time when everything is going digital. The main driving principles are very simple: Security and safety enhancement for employees and operations; Connectivity, which in industrial environments play a very important role, and is directly linked to new revenue streams and innovation for growth; and Operational Efficiency generated by applied technology driven by automated processes.”
Edzcom’s solutions have proven their effectiveness in terms of both safety and efficiency based on the same denominator: seamless connectivity.
“As simple as it sounds, connectivity is the best use case and makes a definite difference to the bottom line. The customers we work with need accurate connectivity at all times. Private networks must be placed in a way that ensures they will always work regardless of the harness of the environment in which they are placed”.
From a revolutionary digitalization of the port services closest to the North Pole to the first private 4G network in the chemical industry for BASF, in the last seven years, Edzcom has implemented more than 32 private network solutions enabling applications as disruptive as the use of augmented reality or transport robotization.
“The factories, ports, and facilities in which we have worked have gone from a static structure to a dynamic one with very fast adaptation to changes and 24/7 operability.”
The company has worked with clients in the logistics, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and energy sectors in 4 countries, but have already started the business operations in additional countries, gaining hand-in-hand experience with partners who are specialists in their fields. These partners have provided key knowledge and expanded Edzcom’s view of the business.
Among the latest projects announced, Edzcom will deploy a 5G stand-alone (SA) private wireless network to support Konecranes’ advanced R&D work. The 5G network will enable Konecranes to research and develop digitalized factory and port solutions that leverage 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency for increased productivity, improved efficiency, and enhanced safety. For Kymiring, the world´s leading 5G motorsports circuit, Edzcom will build an innovative private wireless network to enable motorsport audiences around the world to enjoy an entirely new kind of spectator experience with KymiRing’s first-class network services. The capacity and speed of the network will enable unprecedented televising techniques for motorsport.
“This industry is complex and has many components, so we have to work with partners. Our strategy is to work with partners who are the best in their field, like Nokia, Athonet, Streamwide, Signal partners, Lenovo and Intel. We are not tied to one supplier. When we look for partners, we look for companies that have the same strategy as us. We have suppliers that specialize in different industry sectors so that we try different alternatives that allow us to move forward together.”
The common good and spectrum
Private networks have a dynamizing effect on global economies, and no one doubts that digitization is vital for driving new economic models.
It is not for nothing that the historic and multi-million dollar European Recovery Plan grants take this aspect very much into account and reserve for the Single Market, innovation, and digital chapter an allocation of more than 143 billion euros.
The development of 5G and its infrastructures opens up a world of new applications to improve both industrial processes and their environmental impact, but it is essential that the regulatory environment is adapted to innovation.
From the spectrum point of view, Industry 4.0 demands exclusively reserved frequencies on which it can carry out speed tests, travel with the security of not encountering traffic jams, or have its traffic lights.
“Spectrum is a fundamental part of the effective deployment of 5G. Increasingly our customers, the enterprises, are asking regulators to make some spectrum available to the industry,” explains Uusitalo. “Spectrum is necessary to build quality networks and industries are increasingly demanding it.”
In Europe today, Germany, France, the UK, and Finland already have spectrum specifically earmarked for the industry at reasonable investment costs, and the debate about a spectrum reserve that can be managed directly by companies is raging at the moment.
“There is an open debate, and it is very important to move forward on this. I believe that shortly there will be spectrum available at reasonable investment costs for industry in all European countries and that is a great opportunity for us.”
Journalist and Founder of Newsbub