One of the innovators within the critical communications industry will undoubtedly be Lyfo.NET managed by CEO Maurits Zandbergen. In 2014, Zandbergen sold his company RadioAccess, a local market leader in supplying DAS’ and private LTE & GSM networks, after which he founded Lyfo, which through their unique software solution, Lyfo.net, provides connectivity in places and at times where your own mobile provider does not provide coverage.
How did you get the idea to start Lyfo.NET?
I come from the world of mobile networks. In 2018, we already saw a shift from narrowband to broadband communications for ‘mission critical communication & business critical communication’.
The question we asked ourselves at the time was ‘Is it possible to remove this dependence on the performance of a single mobile network? So, you are no longer dependent on the performance of one provider with poor coverage or network failures. We applied the knowledge and experience we have built up with RadioAccess to that mobile device in order to make switching between mobile networks possible. That was actually the beginning of the Lyfo.NET software solution.
We started at the beginning of 2018. That was the beginning of quite a journey of discovery. Just like Thomas Edison, who invented 1,000 ways in which a light bulb does not work, we invented 1,000 ways in which our solution does not work either, until we actually saw the proverbial light. That started with a Windows version, which came on the market at the end of 2019. In early 2021, we had a breakthrough with Android. This journey with Lyfo is a continuous process of learning and experiencing. That’s where the idea of ‘everything is going to be mobile’ was born. How can we make sure that you are always connected but also stay mobile. And yes, Apple is also on our roadmap, and we are in the approval process. We need to become entitled so that we can access specific APIs within an Apple device. One thing we have learned is that such a process takes time and here too, patience is a virtue. Well, I have learned that in software development!
Why did you choose the name Lyfo.NET?
That was once thought up during a barbecue with my son Jelle. I was looking for a special name and Lyfo is a play on the word Lifo and life. Lifo is the Welsh word for Flow. Welsh is a Celtic language that is still spoken in Wales, the word Lifo ‘stands for Flow of Life’, where you realise that change is always present, nothing ever stays the same. The performance of the mobile network is also constantly changing. Lyfo.NET ensures that you are always connected. So Lyfo actually stands for the flow of communication and communication is constantly changing and that’s where the word Lyfo.NET comes from.
Can you explain in plain language how Lyfo.NET works?
While you are connected to a mobile network, Lyfo.NET constantly monitors the availability of other, better mobile networks. The moment the network you are currently connected to no longer meets our NQI (Network Quality Index) algorithm, Lyfo.NET immediately switches to the best alternative network. This is particularly evident in border areas, but also indoors. We all have places where the coverage of the mobile network is not good. With our solution, this is a thing of the past. And yes, I can already hear the critical reader asking; of course, you need a SIM card that works on all mobile networks. Lyfo.net provides such a SIM card which enables you to quickly switch between all mobile networks.
Would a national operator deny you to use their network?
They can do that, but it is not smart. Because with Lyfo.NET, a mobile operator is going to start up a new revenue stream, which will result in a change to more for less. Let me explain: The global mobile communications market is not getting any bigger and all mobile tariffs are going down every year. All providers offer more data at higher speeds, and everyone is fishing in the same pond. To put it irreverently; it has only become a game of land grabbing for the operators. For example, we have three operators in the Netherlands, and everyone is doing the same thing. With Lyfo.NET they can make the difference and start a new revenue stream; with Lyfo.net they can offer higher availability (QoS), which is particularly interesting for mission-critical and business-critical users.
How did you test this solution?
We did a lot of testing at border crossings. A nice anecdote is that at Hazeldonk Breda we drove back and forth to Belgium 15 times in a few hours. On one of those test days, we were stopped by the KMAR (Dutch Royal Military Police), asking why we drove back and forth so often. That was a hilarious moment and a good opportunity to explain to the KMAR what our software does. Well, they could confirm the coverage problem in border areas!
Berg en Dal near Nijmegen is also a favourite test location of ours. We have our own SIMulators, and we have automatic testing built into the software. Our software tests are mostly fully automated as well. And yes, drive testing is also very nice to do in order to experience how Lyfo.net behaves in practice and sometimes it is different than we had imagined. Because a mobile network in relation to its environment behaves differently time after time.
The solution is also used commercially. Various security services are already using it, both nationally and internationally. The pilotage service is also using our solution. And we have more than 10 pilots running in different countries. And yes, this customer feedback helps us to make the Lyfo.net algorithm even smarter.
What makes your solution unique if we compare Lyfo.NET to parties such as Truphone?
Truphone would be the ideal customer for us, with their presence in 190 countries. They have a multi-SIM solution, but no mechanism to switch between networks. So, if they read this article, we would like to get in touch with them.
What do you want to achieve in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is our home market and almost our playground. That sounds a bit strange, but it’s mainly about raising awareness, launching consumers, both in the B2B and B2C sectors. It is our springboard to the rest of the world.
What are your plans outside the Netherlands?
You see, the Netherlands is ideal for testing things, it’s clear, we are a small country, and we are ‘blessed’ with three very good mobile networks. This is very different in Germany, for example. Just cross the border and drive in the direction of the Eiffel, in one valley one provider has coverage and in another valley another provider has coverage. Furthermore, abroad there’s a much larger number of providers. We are busy with pilots in the UK, France, Spain, Belgium, the first steps are being taken in Germany and we have started a pilot in South America, in Peru.
Last year, we launched Lyfo.NET at the TCCA (The Critical Communications Association) Critical Communications World exhibition in Madrid and that’s where these leads are coming from. And in the mean time, everybody recognises that Lyfo.NET offer a great solution for this problem.
What improvements will you add to the product?
We have managed to come up with a second SIM solution. That means that the first SIM is the operator SIM. We call that the primary path. The second SIM is our Post SIM, which is the secondary path. We managed to automatically switch the data path from the first SIM to the second SIM within 100 milliseconds. What does this mean? All traffic always goes through the primary SIM, e.g. the T-Mobile SIM. When the T-Mobile coverage is not good, for example on the Veluwe, or in a border area, the second SIM is always connected to an alternative network, like KPN or Vodafone for example. As soon as we detect that the performance of the T-Mobile coverage is insufficient, we automatically switch to the second SIM. This happens within 100 milliseconds. In this way, we have been able to reduce the time to switch between networks from 3 seconds for the single SIM solution to 100 milliseconds for the DUO SIM solution and have also introduced Mobile Network Redundancy.
Suppose T-Mobile’s core network has a problem, you will still be able to reach us via the second SIM and therefore the alternative network. Our solution was actually triggered by the three major network audits carried out by Vodafone last year; they went down three times with their network in a relatively short period of time. Every mobile operator has a major network failure at some point, that’s just the way things are. And I dare say that this will only increase in the near future, because all mobile networks will be upgrading to 5G and that is quite exciting. There are certain networks where their core equipment from Huawei has to be converted to European brands like Ericsson or Nokia, for example, these are complex operations. With Lyfo.net you have Mobile Core Redundancy and so the mobile applications will not be affected by such an outage
How do you see your solution in combination with Private LTE?
There are many parties that have a private network or are considering acquiring a private network, and yes, that was also one of the successes of RadioAccess. The biggest problem with private networks is, that on the private network you can call and work well in your own environment, but the big question always remains, what if you leave that area, it should still work. The only possibility is roaming between the public network and the private network. These are very complex solutions with interfaces. A lot of private networks don’t support this, but in our duo SIM solution the second SIM is a private SIM, so you’re on the public network when you’re not near your private network. With the new Lyfo.NET you can make and receive calls in your private area and if the connection isn’t good, you call over the public network. Also, the operation with the E-SIM works well with our solution. Every phone or PoC radio nowadays has a Duo SIM possibility.
How is growth financed?
Through a mix of own resources and private equity. I have two investors in the company and together we finance it. What I have learned is that in software development, costs come before benefits, haha, it’s an expensive hobby, but all the effort and investment is worth it!
What does an average working day look like for you?
There is no such thing as an average working day. I start around 8:30 and my day usually ends around 6:30. Very important is my anchor point during the day, when I go for a walk in the woods with my two dogs. My days are pretty hectic, and I have to deal with different people, projects, and pilots. A walk in the woods gives me the opportunity to relax, clear my head and gain new insights.
If I can’t go outside, I will have a bad day. It is quite difficult to work with people because people are afraid of change and everything we do is about change. I drag everybody along in that change and, well, most of the time I’m a bit ahead of the troops and sometimes I have to take a step back to let everybody in the team connect again. Gradually, we all gain new insights, and I want to improve and change even more things. The team sometimes drives me crazy, we have set ourselves a goal and we are going to achieve it. One of my famous sayings is: ‘There is no shine without friction’ and sometimes there is a lot of friction, I realise that’.
What is your passion?
This is my passion, my way to it. My passion is not achieving my goal but enjoying the journey towards it and everything that comes my way. With all the highs and lows. I enjoy the highs and I can be devastated by the lows, but one cannot exist without the other. Without peaks, there are no valleys. The dot on the horizon is clear to me and I enjoy this journey immensely, every day.
What was the most special moment in your career?
There is not really one special moment. I have experienced several moments as very special. The most special moment was when I started my own business in my son’s attic room. Before that, I had always worked for large companies and found that working in a company did not suit me. At the end of 2007, I started my own business and in mid-2008 we won the first tender for a large DAS system. Then everything started to move fast, and I was able to build my team and hire staff. Another special moment was when we were allowed to provide Steve Jobs’ super-yacht with indoor coverage; it’s not something you experience every day. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see it, I would have loved to talk to him about what drives him.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years’ time, I will be living in the south of Portugal in a resort of my own. Maybe I will still be working, but the need to work in the Netherlands is no longer there. If we have learned anything during the corona period, it is that you can work anywhere. So, I have no need to stay in the Netherlands. I am more of a southern type of person, and I really hate the Dutch winters. Living and working in Southern Portugal is a dream I would like to experience. One thing I know for sure is that I will always be easy to reach via Lyfo.net, because the coverage in Portugal is still a bit of a challenge.