Challenges that shaped 2021 and a look ahead

One of the biggest challenges businesses like Blu Wireless faced in 2021 was international travel bans to our key target markets. During the pandemic, the virtual world of work was an excellent solution that allowed us to maintain a high level of service, but in terms of developing and nurturing customer relationships and building partnerships overseas, there was only so much online interactions could do.

Now, with travel corridors returning to ‘normal’ and face-to-face interactions becoming more commonplace again, we’re looking forward to resuming in-person meetings with customers, partners, and prospects.

Why relationship building is crucial

Blu Wireless has an international customer base, spread across the UK, Europe, North America, and Japan. It’s vital for us to be able to market our technology in person and more impactful for our customers to be able to see the quality of our equipment during live demonstrations.

Fortunately this year saw the tentative return of in-person events and we have been able to exhibit at one of the biggest defence shows, DSEI UK, which took place in September in London. While the first post-pandemic show might have looked and felt a little different than previous years, delegates still travelled in their droves to re-engage face-to-face with clients and colleagues, and for us it was great to be back, talking to customers and friends about their current challenges in unlocking the potential of mmWave communications for military applications.

Production bottlenecks

Our industry, just as many others, has witnessed production bottlenecks due to a global supply shortage of semiconductors.

Lead times for semiconductor chips have been much longer than in the past. What was previously a 13-15 week wait is now 6-12 months, but the situation does seem to be easing. We’ve been working hard to mitigate the effects of delays. Building strong relationships with our customers and partners, coordinating with the market and early forecasting that is both accurate and timely, enabled us to improve lead times and lessen the interruptions caused by delays.

Diversity of supply chain

The move to focus more on the UK’s own diversity of supply is certainly opening up new opportunities for businesses like Blu Wireless. One example of a commitment from the UK Government is the Telecommunications (Security) Bill, which is currently going through the final stages of the legislative process, that will aim to work towards a more diverse telecoms landscape.

Another opportunity for smaller vendors to enter the market is being created by the Open RAN initiative that will allow different vendors, who have specific equipment in the radio, core switching or software space, to interact and interoperate with one another in the same way as the PC and ethernet world.

Open RAN allows operators to choose from smaller UK vendors, of which there are several, who may not be able to deliver a complete Tier 1 product range but can provide interesting technologies and sub-systems which interconnect using Open RAN and therefore allow operators to pick and mix from different sources, ultimately diversifying the entire ecosystem to the benefit of all. With the recently announced CoMP-O-RAN project, funded by DCMS as part of the Future-Ran competition, Open Ran technology is moving into the spotlight in 2022, and we are delighted to be part of this project. As 5G networks begin to scale and densify, innovative ways of maintaining performance and bandwidth will be needed. Using Blu Wireless’s low latency mmWave technology to enable CoMP-O-RAN will have a significant impact on the future economics of 5G NR deployment models across both public and private networks.

A growing footprint in the transport and defence sectors

One of our key achievements this year was the progress we’ve made with our partner evo-rail, the FirstGroup subsidiary, with whom we successfully completed the Rail 5G pilot project on the Isle of Wight paving the way to full commercial roll-out on South Western Rail, in H2 2022.

We have also seen a big uptick in interest from customers in the defence and public safety sectors, being facilitated by the creation of Blu Wireless Technology Inc, our US entity designed to accelerate growth in North America. We’ve been able to capture the demand in the market in a relatively short timeframe which is testament to the strength of our proposition and the desire for commercial ready mmWave communications in defence.

 Way forward

Strategically as a business we look to further grow our footprint in the rail and defence industries. The latter in particular is witnessing a shift towards Digital Modernisation and the Operationalising use of data, both in North America and Europe. This highlights the essential role of mmWave communications in future strategic initiatives as well as network architectures that deliver Gbps connectivity to the edge, which we enable through our turnkey solution that is connecting military applications through robust, covert, and flexible mmWave communications.

Within high-speed transit, particularly for rail, the return to normality is further driving the demand for reliable, high-quality connectivity. The commercial roll-out with South Western Rail in early 2022 helps us reinforce our proposition, and allows us to transform the passenger experiences of the future through our rail .

Working with our customers and partners over the next 12 months and beyond, we’ll be evolving the Blu Wireless platform to provide new features and enhancements, driving innovation, and delivering on customer and business requirements, across key markets and emerging use cases.