Vocus goes mobile by taking over private 4G/5G provider

Vocus goes mobile by taking over private 4G/5G provider

Andrew Wildblood - Vocus 16.9.jpg

Australian carrier Vocus is to acquire Challenge Networks, which provides 4G and 5G private mobile networks.

The company, which in December launched Australia’s first commercial 400Gbps wavelength Ethernet service, said that Challenge Networks runs custom-built mobile networks.

Andrew Wildblood (pictured), Vocus’s CEO for enterprise and government, said: “Challenge Networks’ expertise in deploying private LTE is a perfect match for Vocus’s extensive experience supporting Australia’s government, defence, utilities, and resources sector customers with our fibre network and low earth orbit (LEO) satellite capability – both of which provide coverage in areas others don’t.”

Challenge designs, deploys and operates private 4G and 5G networks for customers that require secure, reliable, high-capacity wireless coverage to support operational technology use cases on customer sites, said Vocus.

Wildblood said: “Through this acquisition, Vocus will be able to provide fibre or LEO satellite connectivity to the perimeter of a site, and then through a private LTE network provide campus-wide wireless connectivity for applications such as autonomous vehicles, IoT sensors, building management systems, voice calls, push-to-talk devices, smartphones, tablets, and computers anywhere on the site.”

Vocus did not give a price for the acquisition, but the Australian Financial Review pointed out that the deal was one of several it had made since it was acquired by Macquarie and the Aware Super pension fund in 2021.

Capacity reported in March 2021 that the Macquarie-led consortium offered A$3.5 billion for Vocus.

Wildblood told Capacity in August 2021 of plans to deliver the first international subsea cable connection into Darwin, on the north coast of Australia, with Singapore and Jakarta.

Vocus said that the addition of wireless network capability complements its A$1 billion investment strategy, which includes capacity upgrades to the company’s existing network and the deployment of substantial new fibre infrastructure – including the Horizon and Highclere projects in the north-west of Australia.

The company also has a wholesale deal with SpaceX’s Starlink to offer LEO satellite services to enterprise and government customers across Australia.

Wireless industry veteran and Challenge Networks co-founder Jack Smyth will retire from the business, but his fellow co-founder Simon Lardner will join the Vocus business, along with Challenge Networks staff, and said the team was excited for the next chapter of the business’s growth.

“Vocus is looking forward to extending our proven and consistent design methodology, providing engineering excellence and highly customised solutions into the mobile domain,” said Wildblood.

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