Zeelo, the coach on-demand service has just raised £4.25m (€4.85m) in new funding to help expand its service beyond the UK and South Africa, a move that should shake up the industry in many countries, says Antony Savvas.

The company uses Artificial Intelligence and mobile networks to efficiently control its coach fleet partners to deliver the most efficient routes to passengers.

Those passengers travelling as individuals or in groups may be commuting to work or travelling to music, sporting or other events. The priority is to get people out of their cars and instead use the shared, cheaper and greener transport that is promised.

Technology is key as the firm doesn’t actually own any coaches, and uses a partner network of coach operators for fulfilment. Founded in 2017, Zeelo raised its first seed funding in July that year from Jaguar Land Rover-owned venture capitalist InMotion Ventures. It has now just closed the £4.25m (€4.85m) injection led by new investor ETF Partners.

Zeelo is competing against the likes of Snap in the UK, which offers an on-demand coach booking platform too, supported by another network of coach operators serving inter-city routes that include London, Nottingham, Oxford, Cardiff and Birmingham, among others.

Antony Savvas

The likes of National Express and Megabus have larger liveried coach fleets at their disposal covering the UK’s towns and cities, but they’re not offering what these fleet startups can, and that’s more flexible travel on-demand using the latest technology.

“45% of our customers are now re-considering their car ownership since we introduced our service,” says Sam Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Zeelo.

Standard agreements

While the fleet industry gets on with taking advantage of improved technology to deliver new services, it’s good to see that major technology players are doing their best to make sure 5G and other connectivity solutions can be efficiently adopted and deployed.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance recently hosted what it says was a “successful conference” on licensing practices in 5G industry segments with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). It brought together various experts from around to discuss licensing practices and the challenges of 5G.

Sam Ryan (left) and Barney Williams

The conference attracted the likes of AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Docomo, Orange, Ericsson, Nokia and Microsoft. Also in attendance were key stakeholders in vertical industries, including Audi, Bosch, Panasonic and u-Blox, and patent pool administrators like Avanci, MPEG-LA, Sisvel and Via Licensing – who co-sponsored the event.

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the Japanese and the European Patent Offices and the European Commission also attended.

What industries like fleet don’t want is arguments among vendors and solution providers over who is allowed to put what hardware or software into what gadgets and services. We had all that with the appearance of 3G and the first Wi-Fi services. While the extension of 3G to 4G was relatively straightforward in that respect, 5G is a whole new challenge when it comes to patents and licencing.

Focusing on the development of 5G and the Internet of Things, the conference drilled-down into present-day licensing practices and related issues across different industry segments. Peter Meissner, CEO of NGMN, said: “Obviously, the 5G ecosystem is different. New use cases beyond mobile broadband – like massive IoT as well as highly demanding requirements from vertical industries on low latency, ultra-high reliability and security – are causing substantial network transformations.

“All these challenges have implications on the intellectual property of mobile network operators and across the different industry segments. Conferences like this are key in identifying IPR (intellectual property rights) issues and exploring solutions for the enlarged ecosystem.”

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