With only a couple of weeks since his appointment as Group CEO of BAI Communications, Igor Leprince has defined the company’s 5G neutral host infrastructure offering to mobile network operators (MNOs) as a priority growth area, setting out a new vision for the global company for the next five years.

Mr Leprince will develop BAI’s 5G neutral host services to MNOs, building on the company’s technical and operational expertise in designing, developing and managing communications networks in major cities around the world.

With over 25 years’ leadership experience in telecommunications infrastructure, including more than ten years at Nokia, where he was President Global Services, Mr Leprince brings a fresh perspective on building partnerships with MNOs, helping local governments and transit operators deliver better connectivity to their communities and users.

“5G represents a huge leap in terms of mobile connectivity, with the potential to unlock the economy in ways we have not yet seen.

“In the future, this technology will support the development of smart cities and push forward entire industries reliant on artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT),” Mr Leprince said.

“However, before we get there, there’s a lot of work to be done over the next few years, including large investments in infrastructure, which in most cases are not viable for single MNOs to absorb. Given this, as well as the operational challenges of accessing large-scale and widespread streetscape, designing sites and maintaining them, we believe that building and operating shared infrastructure is the most beneficial alternative for the MNOs,” he said.

Mr Leprince explained that the formula to form partnerships with the MNOs can be varied and adapted to different commercial models. In some cases, BAI will aim to own and operate infrastructure, whereas in other cases existing infrastructure could be owned by an MNO or a group of them and operated by BAI as a neutral host. Infrastructure could even be owned by a third party, such as a local government entity or a transit agency.

The new Group CEO said that the benefits of the economies of scale delivered by shared sites and infrastructure are exponential, as the roll-out of 5G services by multiple MNOs can happen much more quickly. “The advantage for us here is that we have a lot of experience bringing connectivity to cities in partnership with the public sector, forming very good relationships over the years and developing a reputation for delivering projects on time and under budget,” Mr Leprince said.

In addition to the renewed emphasis on its 5G business, BAI Communications will continue to deliver excellence in its longstanding services to customers and partners around the world. This includes delivering infrastructure services to broadcasters and MNOs in Australia; operating and maintaining a network for emergency services in the Australian state of New South Wales; delivering connectivity to large venue operators; and providing cellular coverage through 3G/4G shared networks and Wi-Fi for commuters in cities like New York, Toronto and Hong Kong.

“We remain as committed as always to delivering our longstanding core telecommunications infrastructure services in all the cities where we currently have a presence,” Mr Leprince said.

In cities like New York and Toronto, BAI Communications also provides connectivity solutions for the emergency services of public transit operators, as well as more advanced applications including advertising platforms and data analytics that allow for IoT solutions in various operational areas.

“Our current data engineering capabilities seen in some of our more advanced applications are great credentials for us to help our partners build the stations and the cities of the future,” Mr Leprince said. “In the next few years, 5G networks will take these solutions to the next level, allowing transit operators to access more accurate data analytics, which will ultimately enable them to provide safer and more efficient services to the public,” he added.

The impact of COVID-19

The appointment of Mr Leprince also comes at a pivotal time for the telecommunications industry, as millions of people living and working in self-isolation have invariably crowded the existing networks.

“This COVID-19 crisis has had a big impact on a lot of people and organisations that have had to adjust to living and working remotely. However, I think the pandemic situation has also made people realise the importance of and reliance on telecommunication networks. Because of this critical experience, we expect the demand for high quality network connectivity to increase at a higher speed than previously anticipated, over the next few years,” he said.

In the next few months, Mr Leprince will continue to develop the new 5G strategy for BAI, while focusing too on attracting new talent to the organisation to complement the current team to help drive the strategy forward.