A Journey Through More Than 20 Years of Mobile Technology With Flint
Flint has been part of the ICT industry for more than 20 years. From its humble beginnings, five driven engineers making it on their own, to a multinational company with offices throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—Flint’s founding member Keith Barker remembers the company’s journey.
Flint’s founding members Keith Barker, Alan Bryant, and Peter Shiret started their journey towards a joint venture while working together as subcontractors for an ICT Consulting firm. After their contracts ended, they decided to form a new company in the UK, Flint Consulting. This was in the summer of 1999.
A “letter of intent” by Ericsson UK to support the company with the rollout of GPRS into the networks of mobile operators in the UK helped Keith, Alan and Peter to make the move. The demand for providing services quickly started to grow and in early 2000 Scott Moore and Neil Burbidge joined the Flint family.
The Early Days of Flint: 2.5G and 3G
Throughout the first few years of Flint, telecoms giant Ericsson remained an integral part of the journey. The experienced engineers led important projects to accelerate the introduction of a new mobile technology. “Some members of the team had specific skills in wireless data, which were needed for what was to become one of the most important components of mobile networks, i.e., GPRS and the supporting network infrastructure, which is now known as the ‘evolved packet core’ (EPC),” Keith recalls.
“The first year of Flint’s engagement with Ericsson, took place during the heady days of mobile when there was a lot of interest and investment in the industry. GPRS ushered in the era of 2.5G, with introduction of significant data being used on mobile phones. The move to 3G and faster data speeds was just around the corner. There was a lot of excitement within the business,” Keith recalls about those first few years of Flint.
However, the enthusiasm for 3G curtailed, when the UK government extracted a very high price for the 3G spectrum licences. “This ultimately took a large chunk of the money that the operators could have used for the deployment of 3G,” Keith elaborates.
New Projects and Expanding the Flint Portfolio
In 2002 the reduction of 3G investment money by mobile operators and the resulting loss of some work started impacting Flint. The company started looking to diversify its portfolio into more resourcing and working on projects for a number of start-ups and lesser-known service providers (Inmarsat and 2PM Technologies).
2008 proved to be an important year for Flint as the company became a major strategic partner of Starent Networks which led to the growth of Flint and the start of its international journey (Flint supported the rollout of the mobile packet core in Vodafone entities within EMEA and beyond). In 2009 Starent Networks was acquired by Cisco, in doing so making Flint a partner. “That early relationship with Cisco has matured into Flint becoming an important resourcing and services partner of Cisco throughout EMEA, covering not just the EPC but a whole portfolio of different technologies that Cisco supplies,” Keith explains.
Around that time Flint also started to work on several 3GPP radio base station related projects. The scope of work involved with the RAN was very diverse, covering everything from “drive around testing”, cell site upgrades, microwave, and deployment of Radio Access Networks (3G & 4G and Small Cells). In 2011 Flint was awarded the contract to own and deliver the design of the DASS solution for the London 2012 Olympic Stadium and the venues throughout the Olympic Park including the RAN hotel.
Flint’s Tenth Anniversary and the 2010s
By 2010 Flint became a much sought-after partner, with an ever-expanding portfolio of services. The company was now able to supply the required expertise, either by in-house resources or external contractors in any technology discipline requested by their clients.
In the mid-2010s Flint’s team continued to develop its expertise and capability with EPC, with the rollout of VoLTE and IMS services, but also actively working on newer technologies like the rollout of 3 and 4G small cells, for IPAccess and Cisco, as well as deep packet inspection and traffic shaping for Sandvine customers and RAN backhaul and aggregation for Cisco.
In 2015 Flint established its first local entity beyond the British Isles in Russia. Over the next few years, 12 entities have been established in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia joining the Flint portfolio. The company’s service portfolio also grew, today encompassing strategic resourcing, networking, automation, orchestration, training, and enablement.
2021 and Beyond
Although Flint now offers a diverse portfolio of services, at its core, Flint is still heavily focused on the mobile network industry.
“Flint continues to provide the required skills and expertise that our customers need as we move into wide-scale adoption of the 5th generation of mobile systems, where traditional dedicated hardware-based appliances are replaced by software applications running in data centres.
“These new ‘virtual machine’ based systems still require the competence of being able to deploy and setup the components that create the mobile networks, but also have the skillsets for the new technologies like ‘local Telco Cloud’ and the onboarding of the replacement ‘virtualised network functions’. Flint is well placed to embrace the constant evolution of telecommunications and continues to demonstrate that the company has the skills to follow the technology evolution.” Keith remains looking forward to a bright future for Flint in the coming years, as the company continues its mission to deliver high-quality skills and services for its customers.
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