Marc Ganzi’s UK operations unite under Freshwave brand

Marc Ganzi’s UK operations unite under Freshwave brand

30 January 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Digital Colony, the Marc Ganzi investment group that is bidding for Zayo, has unified three of its UK operations under a new brand, Freshwave.

Digital Colony bought StrattoOpencell, iWireless Solutions and Spyder Facilities between August 2018 and June 2019, all companies that specialise in providing indoor and outdoor mobile networks on behalf of licensed operators.

“We also work with real-estate owners that want coverage in their buildings,” Simon Frumkin (pictured), CEO of Freshwave since the beginning of January, told Capacity at Digital Colony’s London offices.

Of the three units now combined into Freshwave, StrattoOpencell installs mobile services inside buildings; iWireless specialises in outdoor coverage of venues such as Twickenham Stadium in west London and it provides Wifi in places such as the financial centre of London; and Spyder Facilities provides rooftop and ground-based masts in more than 5,000 locations in Britain and Ireland.

It’s a complex business, Frumkin told Capacity, because the four different network operators have different ideas about network design. “You have to take into account their requirements and ideas,” he said.

Frumkin has worked in the mobile industry since 1999, when he joined Orange in a financial role. Later he was CFO of T-Mobile UK and later non-executive chairman of MBNL, the UK infrastructure company owned by BT’s EE and CK Hutchison’s Three.

The Freshwave brand will not replace the existing product names, at least for the time being, but the company is integrating operations “especially on the customer-facing business side”, he said: “iWireless has a big delivery team.”

And a number of current projects combine indoor and outdoor coverage, “from car parks to auditoriums”.

The advent of 5G mobile technology will increase the demand for outdoor small cells, he noted. “The range [at high spectrum frequencies] is less, so it’s necessary to bring coverage down to street level, and there’s a necessity to densify the networks as well.”

Frumkin’s team is using expertise as well as capital from Ganzi’s US organisation. “We have the opportunity to own and operate systems long-term, and enter long-term contracts with customers where we own the equipment and recover the cost through a rental model,” he told Capacity. “I’m hugely impressed with the technical expertise and knowhow [from Digital Colony’s tower businesses]. The way they operate is really, really impressive.”

Graham Payne, who co-founded StrattoOpencell, is now executive chairman of Freshwave. He was also previously at T-Mobile UK and MBNL.

Digital Colony is believed to be in the final stages of taking over Zayo for $14.3 billion in a joint venture with Swedish investment group EQT. Capacity interviewed Ganzi in July 2019