Entropia Digital, which operates private digital PMR networks in the Netherlands and Belgium, is to invest in a DMR (digital mobile radio) network in the UK, it announced this week (9 December 2013).
The company’s business model is to provide customers with subscription-based tailored communication services, including voice and data, without them having to worry about the network infrastructure and radios, which it supplies. Entropia said it now has a proposition ready for a 200 site network in the UK.
Philip Vercruysse, CEO of Entropis, told Wireless that many of the sites are based on decommissioned Fylde Micro MPT1327 sites. Entropia has worked with Fylde for many years, including in The Netherlands. The two have a made a deal to swop the Fylde sites over to DMR.
Entropia noted that the UK has a lot of radio dealers and partners, which has lead to the development of a large number of local systems. However, it observed that customers hit a problem with local systems when they want to increase capacity or extend coverage to a wider area.
The company said this provided it with the business case for entering the UK market. Partners, who are selling local systems, will now have an opportunity to offer their customers a wider system and service with Entropia.
However, Vercruysse said TETRA was not an option in the UK and Entropia has waited a year and a half for the DMR Tier III trunked solution to mature before committing itself to the UK.
The company added that it believes the UK is not used to having wider-area coverage with PMR radio systems, but that customers would welcome the ability to communicate between Southampton and Norwich, for example. Entropia’s networks in the Netherlands and in Belgium allow this kind of long range coverage.
Vercruysse said: “We have looked at the whole frequency issue in the UK. A lot of smaller operators use very high umbrella sites covering a huge area. We are looking to use lower height sites with panel antennas. We will start with the London area and some others, such as around Fylde’s base in Blackpool.
‘We are negotiating with a partner who has 486 masts in the London area. We will be conducting testing in the first two quarters of 2014 and then invite UK dealers to come and hear our proposition.’
Entropia concedes that the coverage will depend on the availability of frequencies, but it has the finance in place to roll out a 200-site system. It will initially concentrate on using spectrum owned by local UK partners – applying for full licences from Ofcom will be a secondary route to acquiring spectrum. It does have exclusive UHF spectrum for the London area, however.
Entropia distributes its subscription-based solution via its partners and dealers. It will cover the financing of the customer’s radios on behalf of its partners and they in turn receive a commission per radio per month. The partner installs, commissions, programmes and sells additional options, such as accessories and applications.
The company developed its managed service model in The Netherlands and in the Flanders province of Belgium, where it has a 200-plus site TETRA network, which is currently being changed from a switched network to an all IP-system. It targets commercial users, such as transport and logistics, utilities and power generation, oil and gas, healthcare and seaports, as well as other industries.
In The Netherlands and Belgium, Entropia offers two options: a local TETRA network with the radio (plus some accessories, warranty etc) for Euro 25 a month; and a wide area TETRA network with radio for Euro 35 a month. ‘This is a new proposition where the customer does not have to buy the radio,’ Vercruysse explained.
In July 2013, Motorola Solutions, together with KPN Critical Communications, won a 10-year contract to supply, build and maintain a new TETRA network based on its latest all-IP TETRA Dimetra 8.x platform. It will replace Entropia’s existing switched-based TETRA network. The new network is expected to be fully complete by the end of December 2014.
In November 2013, Hytera won a contract to supply 15,000 TETRA radios to Entropia for use in The Netherlands and Belgium. Vercruysse said the partnership was likely to be extended to the UK using Hytera DMR radios.