The Coming Tsunami of 5G Networks and Why Cervin Invested in Celona
Most of you on AT&T and Verizon might have noticed a 5Ge network on your phone in some areas (spoiler: it’s not 5G). The question then is why are the carriers getting ahead of the marketing game? The answer: 5G is a big deal. Bigger than 4G and arguably bigger than 3G as well.
5G is at least 10 times faster than the fastest 4G networks, has far less latency (as low as 1ms as opposed to 50–100ms or so for 4G), and is far more efficient in that it can support a million connected devices per square kilometer. It is safe to say that 3G led to the smartphone, and 4G led to the on-demand economy (can anyone imagine running Uber and waiting for a 2G or even a 3G network to respond?). In fact, we cannot even fathom the applications that 5G will drive. We do know that in 2019 and 2020, 5G devices will be introduced en masse. Fixed wireless access using 5G will be available in the home during and after 2020. Because of 5G’s amazingly low latency, business-critical apps and devices will be big beneficiaries — whether for factories, smart buildings or smart grids.
What excites us the most is that, for the first time, enterprises can build their own 5G networks without going to traditional carriers. How did this happen? The 3550–3700 Mhz band was freed up by the 2010 FCC National Broadband Plan. This band is called Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS for short. Enterprises can now use this shared spectrum without going through costly licensing procedures. At higher 5G frequencies, there is a limitation on distance traversed and the ability to go through walls. This is not a limitation for 5G at the CBRS band. Therefore, the end result is likely a world that is a combination of 5G in mmWave and licensed mid-band frequencies, 5G at CBRS frequencies, and WiFi-6. We will address that in a future blog.
Why would an enterprise want to set up its own 5G CBRS network? There are many reasons. For example, some areas (like airport tarmacs) have a very weak 4G signal due to lack of cell tower coverage. Imagine now, if an airport can build its own 5G network on the CBRS spectrum — or seaports and stadiums, or even large companies for their campuses. Enterprises can opt to run their business-critical systems on 5G CBRS. Some enterprises will go all-in on 5G: getting their fixed connection to the internet with a 5G network from a carrier, and setting up their own 5G CBRS network within buildings.
Our lead partner on the deal, Shirish Sathaye, was the first investor in Aruba Networks. Shirish sees this as a repeat of the same solution for enterprises that Aruba pioneered for Wi-Fi. There will be a need for an enterprise solution that acts as the controller for the enterprise 5G network. The difference is twofold, however. In the case of Wi-Fi, Aruba had to have a hardware controller and also had to develop the interface to communicate with the access points. In this new world, the controller can be software-only hosted in the cloud, and since the communication protocol for a cellular Radio Access Network (RAN) is already well established, that piece of the puzzle would be simpler to implement.
The Celona team has the ability to do exactly this. With their backgrounds at leading technology companies such as Aruba, Federated Wireless, Ruckus Networks and Qualcomm, the team is complete and impressive. CEO Rajeev Shah and CTO Mehmet Yavuz have deep experience spanning enterprise networking and cellular wireless. This is truly a one-of-a-kind team to build an incredible company leveraging this massive opportunity.
Cervin looks forward to working with Rajeev, Mehmet and rest of the team at Celona, and with our co-investors, Lightspeed and Norwest Venture Partners.