Nokia and Edzcom/Cellnex renew private 5G vows, hit the Industry 4.0 trail in Europe
It is a partnership of industrial-minded telco country-mates that effectively helped to build the early private LTE and 5G market, with joint references in a number of key installations in Europe over the last five years, notably in the ports and mining sectors; now Finnish duo Nokia and Edzcom – once called Ukkoverkot, now part of Spanish tower firm Cellnex Telecom – claim to have formally cemented their working relationship, without saying exactly how.
The pair kept appearing together in the early days of (new) private wireless, as spectrum became increasingly liberalised and available directly to enterprises. Edzcom might fairly be described as a pioneer in the private networking space, by virtue of the fact it picked up spectrum of its own at 2.6 GHz and 450 MHz in Finland, before the rest of Europe had made any such regulatory provision on ‘vertical’ spectrum for enterprises.
It also has a lease on 50MHz of the 2.6 GHz band via network operator Three in Sweden. But it has also pursued the market with real vigour and some success, making itself an indispensable partner for Nokia in its own industrial networking strategy, and turning heads at Barcelona-based Cellnex Telecom, which acquired it two years back for an undisclosed fee. Edzcom told Enterprise IoT Insights in March/April it had deployed 40-odd private networks so far.
Nokia, offering a longer history and greater scale, claims around 450 “large” customers for private LTE and 5G gear, as it likes to remind the industry. But the pair have been seemingly joined at the hip in northern Europe, in and around Edzcom’s own spectrum holdings, and lately venturing together into the German automotive market as well, leveraging the local 3.7-3.8 GHz vertical band. Edzcom tends towards a Nokia-Athonet joint ticket for RAN and core.
Speaking with Enterprise IoT Insights at MWC in Barcelona, Mikko Uusitalo, general manager for mission critical and private networks at Cellnex (chief executive at Edzcom, basically) explained: “We select partners that really perform. For the radio part, Nokia and Ericsson are more advanced; Nokia perhaps a little more so than Ericsson. On the core, there are many vendors, but, yes, we like Athonet a lot.”
Asked, then, why Edzcom does not go with Nokia for the core network as well, Uusitalo talked about issues of spectrum availability and radio capability, budget constraints and application requirements, as well as mutual business benefits. He commented: “All of it is driven by the use case and the cost…. I don’t think there’s necessarily a lot of difference really between Nokia’s core and Athonet’s, actually; we still work on a case-by-case basis.”
But his response also spoke of the importance of Edzcom’s channel activity with Nokia, and with Athonet also, to an extent. He commented: “We like to work with these vendors on the demand side, too – so we get leads from Nokia sometimes, and Athonet as well. So it’s the sum of many things.” A press statement about their forward direction said the pair has strengthened their “commercial collaboration and commitment… in different countries in the region”.
But it did not say much else, except to restate their work together already in the energy, logistics, manufacturing, mining, and healthcare sectors to “enhance business operations by improving safety, efficiency, and productivity”, and to observe the wider market’s growth more recently. “These developments now allow Cellnex and Nokia to step up their collaborative commercial efforts in different countries in the region,” it said.
Mikko Uusitalo, general manager for mission critical and private networks at Cellnex, said: “Cellnex and Nokia have a strong and trusted partnership. Nokia has a leadership position in terms of winning deals which have enabled customers to adopt private wireless networks. At Cellnex we have many years of experience in designing, building, and operating customized private network solutions. Leveraging the business resources of both companies will allow us to boost industry growth.”
Matthieu Bourguignon, vice president of sales for Nokia’s enterprise division in Europe, said: “Nokia has deployed mission-critical networks to over 2,200 leading enterprise customers in the transport, energy, large enterprise, manufacturing, webscale, and public sector segments around the globe. And we have extended our expertise to more than 450 large private wireless customers worldwide. These successes are possible with our valued partners. We are excited to expand our partnership with Cellnex Telecom to enable digital transformation across an array of industries.”