Athonet Smartgrid

The mobile network for smartgrid


The energy system is changing drastically: from a model based on large “centralised” energy plants and distribution grids that feed final “passive” consumption in one direction only, there is now a system centred on proactive client needs, who are also often producers (prosumers), founded on renewable sources, intelligent networks, domotics, and accumulation systems. In the near future, the key infrastructures for electrical distribution will be large intelligent networks in industrialised countries and micro-grids for industrial plants, small communities and developing countries. In this context, it is essential to have a safe, flexible data transmission system, that functions in all situations and is completely integrated with energy station management systems.

There is currently still a lack of awareness of new challenges in utilities and little understanding of the ideal technologies to address them, but trends show that it will soon be competitive and successful to manage this type of communication systems. It is in fact estimated that this market segment will soon be worth almost 2.6 billion dollars a year by 2020.


Athonet was created with the aim of creating a mobile network that will allow “mission critical” communications in any place and in any condition: in spaces such as stadiums with high user density, and in remotely populated areas that are badly served by national operator networks. A radio-mobile network that can easily be integrated with existing networks has been created that allows a significant reduction in realisation and management costs, and makes it possible to provide data transmission, live video and voice services. This all has an excellent level of coverage, low-level latency and an guarantee of operation continuity, even in critical and emergency situations.

This has lead to the creation of PriMo (Private Mobile), a product that uses the software to create a virtual mobile network using UMTS/HSPA/LTE and WiFi technology, which manages connections via “flat” architecture, where all the functions can centralised or distributed even to the more remote points on the network. Data communication between terminals and machines is local to PriMo, allowing higher bit-rates without using additional resources. PriMo can also work as an autonomous network, or interact with the mobile telephone network infrastructures, to provide greater services and reliability, while reducing costs to a minimum.

Similarly to what happens with PriMo, where the entire network of a mobile operator is compacted into a software that runs virtualised on common servers, Athonet has also created PriMVNO, a product that allows companies from the energy sector, M2M and Internet of Things to launch a full MVNO service, with limited costs and to immediately benefit from national radio access coverage, interfacing with the 2G/3G/4G data network of the mobile operator with which an agreement has been stipulated. The MVNO solution proposed by Athonet also allows higher control and security of services, increasingly important elements in the construction of future data networks.

Application & Benefits

Clients using PriMo can make use of the benefits of broadband mobile communication, without running into the traditional connection problems that usually affect such infrastructures. The network can also be easily controlled and adapted to different security policies and the client’s specific needs.


Flexibility of the PriMo platform allows the construction and development of networks in order to create the most suitable solution for various needs. The main advantages of PriMo are:


  • Network virtualisation with the consequent reduction of costs (capex/opex) and increase in flexibility and performance;
  • better performance thanks to the distributed architecture;
  • low latency;
  • Resolution of congestion problems in hotspots thanks to the possibility of directly connecting to the company Intranet network, avoiding typical bottlenecks in centralised architectures;
  • Full control of the service;
  • Dedicated network and high level service compared to the classic mobile network that is shared by all the users;
  • guaranteed access, broadband, priorities for professional profiles;
  • High return on investment with consumer and business clients;
  • Installation and swift startup of the network;
  • Simple integration with existing and future applications.
  • Adaptation of the solution to difficult, dangerous environments, such as plants at high altitude, caves and tunnels.

Active Projects

2011: World debut of an LTE Smartgrid

Athonet has allowed Enel to launch the first dedicated, independent LTE network for Smartgrids in two areas subject to the “digital divide”.


2012: Earthquake in Emilia Romagna

During the 2012 earthquake in Emilia Romagna, PriMo provided Internet, Intranet, telephone and video surveillance connections for the Mirandola Civil Protection headquarters. This was the first time an LTE network was used to emergency purposes. Athonet received an award for this from the Italian President at that time, Giorgio Napolitano, during Nuvolaverde Day.


2015: Use at the Federico II station in Brindisi

Enel has tested and implemented the dedicated LTE network solution at the Federico II site in Brindisi, providing private network cover for “mission critical” communications for the station itself.


2015: MVNO project

The Enel Digital Enabler Business Unit has evaluated and chosen the virtualised PriMVNO solution to become a machine-to-machine mobile virtual operator (MVNO). This will make communication to and between millions of Enel machines and sensors around the area more competitive – in terms of costs and performance – and will create a new generation Industrial Internet of Things.


Update 1

Karim El Malki, CEO and founder of the Italian startup Athonet, has been awarded in 2015 by the #MakeTechHuman campaign by WIRED and Nokia.

El Malki, a 42-year old engineer of Egyptian origin with many years experience behind him, and his team have proven that there are no areas that can remain cut off from communications. The most critical areas, the areas on the edge, are a challenge that only real innovators will take up, something that Athonet has proven worldwide.

Update 2

Italian Station Radio 24 interviewed Athonet’s CTO Gianluca Verin during Enrico Pagliarini’s program 2024, focused on technology.

They spoke of how the use of the software is transforming mobile telecommunications networks, reducing their costs and making them more flexible, thus more prepared for the incoming boom of the Internet of Things.

You can listen to the program (in italian) here, from minute 48:20 onwards.