The spread of connected devices has been gathering momentum over the last few years. According to Statista, the estimated number of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) is forecast to grow to almost 31 billion worldwide in 2020 – more than double the 15 billion devices in 2015. A similar phenomenon can also be observed in the realm of smartphones: smartphone users now make up 35% of the global population, up from about 10 % in 2011.
As the number of connected devices continues to grow, so must the services that support them. The innovative Italian company Athonet recognised this need in 2005 when they created their enterprise. Six years later, they developed the first Private LTE Smartgrid network, they then deployed the first Private LTE network in a major power plant in 2014 and, a year later, one of the first large-scale private virtual mobile core deployments in the world.
“We predicted that there would be an explosion in mobile traffic which would require a completely new approach to building mobile networks. We thought that we could build technology that was better than what was available by focusing on software and building IT-friendly products,” explains the CEO and Co-founder of Athonet, Karim El Malki.
With this objective in mind the companyA020811 created “a software-based 4G/5G wireless network solution that is simple, scalable, and cost-effective” and developed entirely in-house. Athonet provides a complete 100% software-based mobile core for voice and data networks that operate “in the Cloud or on commodity hardware.”
"An innovator is someone who questions today’s solutions and works to find a better way."
Karim El Malki, CEO and co-founder of Athonet
Mobile networks that connect the world
Due to the earthquakes in Northern Italy in 2012, fixed and mobile networks were severely overloaded or damaged. Fortunately, Athonet was able to step in and offer their services during this period.
“The Italian Civil Protection had installed our network, utilising it for real-time fixed video surveillance, wearable mobile video and voice communications to and from field emergency personnel as well as providing free WiFi access for civilians.”
Today, Athonet’s network solutions are deployed all over the world “including North America, Europe and a few countries in LatAm, Africa, and Asia-Pacific,” El Malki continues.
Athonet provides service to governments, mobile operators as well as different enterprises, such as utilities, Industry 4.0, logistics, hospitals, and airports. “We offer our clients private 4G/5G networks that respond to specific organisational needs,” explains the CEO.
In addition to the immediate benefits to existing service providers and users, the platform also offers highly efficient solutions capable of bridging the digital divide and connecting the 4 billion people who currently don’t have access to the internet.
The company’s guiding philosophy that “innovation is the foundation for any disruptive company” is clearly paying off. This year at the Global Mobile Awards (GLOMO Awards) in Barcelona, Athonet BubbleCloud won the prize for “Best Mobile Innovation for Enterprise” a prestigious accolade presented at the world’s leading event for the mobile phone industry.
As Athonet continues to stride forward into the future, the focus is on expanding the company’s business internationally; the first steps have already been taken with the opening of an office in the United States, while there are plans “to open one very soon in France after winning an important government tender for Public Safety LTE.”
Into the future with Enel
The relationship between Athonet and Enel began a few years ago. “Our partnership began in 2011 when our technology was used by Enel for an innovative Smartgrid network deployment in Italy. One year after that, we were selected for the Enel Lab programme,” explains El Malki.
For El Malki, Enel’s position is unique because it has a massive market potential for early stage companies and is willing to take risks to try disruptors and new technology. “What any company needs in its initial phase is to understand customer needs and gain access to them. That is, Enel not only provides for the utility market but they also go beyond it with Enel X,” he adds. At Enel, we chose their technology to build a pioneering virtualised Mobile Virtual Network.
El Malki emphasises that “mobile traffic has increased dramatically over the past 10 years as we have become dependent on mobile devices for internet connectivity and communication in general.” If we look to the future, “mobile network technology will become even more flexible, enabling use for new services and by new customers such as connected factories, connected buildings, augmented reality and robots.”