Freshwave targets neutral and managed mobile site services growth in UK

Digital Colony rolls up its network services acquisitions into new brand, appoints new CEO.

The group of network services companies acquired by investment group Digital Colony will trade from now on as Freshwave.

Freshwave brings together the neutral host small cell and DAS provider StrattoOpencell, wireless systems integrator iWireless Solutions, and tower and rooftop site company Spyder Facilities.

Freshwave CEO Simon Frumkin: ” Operators’ relationships with site providers over the years have been really poor”

It has appointed a new CEO, Simon Frumkin, who has spent the previous four years at BT/EE’s ESN, and prior to that was a founder and board member of EE and Three’s shared network provider MBNL.

Frumkin said that the company is hoping to ride the demand for multi-operator access and for neutral host infrastructure in enterprise buildings, dense urban small cell deployments and for some macro towers/sites.

For the enterprise market that means expanding on the former StrattoOpencell business that provides coverage by siting multiple small cells within a location, connected over a common infrastructure to operators’ core networks. (StrattoOpencell’s CEO Graham Payne has moved up to Chair Freshwave.)

This is also the model Freshwave hopes to exploit where it can gain access to street level, dense urban infrastructure.

“The UK market is a little behind other markets [Freshwave’s US stablemate in the Digital Colony’s portfolio Extenet has thousands outdoor small cells ] but we know demand is coming as we talk to more and more with operators.”

“Everyone understands they will have to bring coverage down to street level, and we work to fit in between local authorities and operators who may not all want to go on the same street furniture.”

Frumkin said that Freshwave is “in with a number of local authorities” right now, although he is not convinced the concession model is always the right approach for this market.

A third arm of the business is Spyder Facilities’ towers and sites business. Here, Frumkin says, the company owns the rights via deals with landowners to site equipment on 4,000 locations – often with planning approval for towers already agreed. By getting marketing rights with service station owners and out of town storage facilities, for example, Freshwave can offer operators access close to roads and other key target areas.

“Operators’ relationships with site providers over the years have been really poor. We will pioneer more collaborative commercial models, invest more capital, so that building owners can achieve what they want to, plus we bring very high degrees of technical and commercial expertise. One of the issues with dealing with multi-operator scenarios is that operators have different strategies technically, and commercially, and that’s where we can be highly competent.”

In terms of revenue, Frumkin said, “Broadly – and interestingly – revenue is evenly split between indoor and the outdoor small cells. I think with outdoor deployments we will see growth but also a huge demand from business for in-building coverage. Other areas are more fledgling, such as private LTE. We have a project with Vodafone where we are using some of its spectrum to do private LTE in rural areas where they do not currently operate.”