As seen in the August 22, 2022 INCOMPAS eNewsletter.
Headquarters: Milpitas, Calif.
Q: Please tell us about your company. When was it founded? How has the company evolved since its founding? Have your services changed? Are there key milestones in your company’s history and growth that you can highlight?
Founded by four Berkeley Ph.D.s and one long-time veteran of advanced radio system development in 2009, Tarana Wireless is a rapidly growing telecom vendor creating and leading the next-generation fixed wireless access (ngFWA) category. The company is fundamentally changing market dynamics with Gigabit 1 (G1), their end-to-end solution specifically designed for broadband service providers to address the performance and network economics shortcomings of legacy fixed wireless technology. Following 12 years of intense R&D, Tarana has accomplished multiple industry firsts in non-line-of-sight (NLoS) connectivity and unlicensed-band radio interference cancellation.
Tarana kicked off initial G1 shipments to 2 operators in March 2021, and now has over 160 customers worldwide with dozens more in the sales pipeline. Operators all over the globe are reporting unprecedented performance of G1, relative to legacy fixed wireless access (FWA) systems. Even while scaling the company to dozens of new markets and doubling employee headcount in just over a year, they have maintained a 100% conversion rate from pilots to commercial deployments.
Tarana reached unicorn status following Series 6 funding of $170 million in March 2022, and is on track to deliver ~$100 million of realized revenue for 2022. One of the top five wireless internet service providers (WISPs) in the U.S. recently placed a $5 million order to begin commercial deployment without conducting a pilot at all — a move entirely unheard of in telecom.
Tarana was also just awarded three of Channel Vision Magazine’s 2022 Visionary Spotlight Awards. The revolutionary G1 platform earned them recognition in the “Top Innovators” and “Multi-Location Deployments” categories, and their mission to narrow the digital divide through ngFWA technology solidified a third win in the “Rural and Underserved Connectivity” category.
Q: Please tell us about the company's top executives and the work that they are doing in our industry.
Basil Alwan, Tarana CEO, has made a major splash in the telecom industry. Prior to leading Tarana to a $1 billion valuation and ensuring the path needed to grow aggressively, Basil was the president of IP/Optical Networks at Nokia, where he drove revenues over $5 billion across IP, Transport and Cloud/Data Center markets. He joined Nokia (previously Alcatel-Lucent) through the acquisition of privately held TiMetra Networks, where he was founder, president and CEO. TiMetra’s acquisition earned Basil a spot in the 2018 Light Reading Hall of Fame, where Light Reading commented, “Alcatel struck gold twice -- it got a solid product and an even better executive leader in TiMetra's founder and CEO, Basil Alwan… While most startup CEOs would have gone back to Silicon Valley to open a yoga studio or an alpaca farm or some other insufferable thing, Alwan stayed the course as one of the most consistent executive leaders Light Reading has ever covered.”
Basil is widely regarded in telecom, recently featured on TelecomTV and appearing as a guest on Light Reading’s podcast to discuss the new potential of ngFWA. His venture with Tarana also earned him a feature in Bloomberg last year. Basil’s relatively recent addition to the Tarana team is an excellent complement to the extraordinary efforts of the company’s founders.
Dale Branlund – CTO, co-founder, and the chief architect of Tarana’s 2nd and 3rd generation wireless broadband systems – has more than 40 years of deep experience in wireless system innovation, development, executive management and startup growth in advanced radio systems. Prior to Tarana, he co-founded and held senior technical executive roles in BRN Phoenix (broadband wireless access systems based on adaptive array processing technology), BeamReach Networks and Radix Technologies (defense contractor specializing in signal reconnaissance and digital signal processing). Dale was co-inventor of the first wireless system to use OFDMA and adaptive beamforming technology first used in ATT Project Angel. Dale has numerous patents both issued and pending for mobile and fixed broadband systems using adaptive array technologies.
Sergiu Nedevschi, co-founder and CSO of Tarana, has a unique vision that has been guiding the company since day one, setting and executing on product, technology and major account strategies. His prior experience includes network efficiency research at the International Computer Science Institute, wireless research at Intel Labs, and design and deployment of WiLDNet, a revolutionary low-cost, high-performance wireless network, as part of UC Berkeley’s TIER Group. Sergiu has published more than 25 technical papers in wireless.
Q: Where do you provide services?
Tarana is working diligently to make their broadband solution globally available. Currently supporting customers in 8 countries across North America, Europe and Africa, their growing distribution network also includes partners in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Brazil and Malaysia – with multiple additions in progress – all of which are focused on getting G1 to as many operators and end users as possible.
Tarana’s breakthrough wireless solution is applicable in many use cases. Because G1 delivers fiber-class, affordable broadband service at a fraction of fiber's deployment time and cost, it creates enormous value for both rural areas with little or no broadband at all, as well as urban and residential areas where the only real choice is high-priced service from a local cable monopoly.
Q: What types of products and/or services do you offer your customers?
Tarana enables broadband providers to bring affordable internet to the world — narrowing the digital divide and introducing healthy competition to markets previously held hostage by monopoly providers. The G1 platform leverages over a decade of R&D to deliver fiber-class service at distances exceeding 10 miles with strong immunity to both obstructions and interference from other networks – demonstrating performance and network economics that legacy fixed wireless solutions and 5G cannot begin to match. Tarana is changing the market dynamics of fixed broadband, delivering up to 800 Mbps speeds, fiber-class stability, long range, and operation in both unlicensed and licensed spectrum.
G1 includes compact base nodes (BNs) that consist of a single integrated package including antennas, PAs, several teraflops of digital signal processing, managed Ethernet switching, and 10G optical network interfaces to communicate with up to 256 similarly self-contained remote notes (RNs) that are deployed on premise for each customer. Fixed access-network endpoints don't need to support roaming or mobility and can be created with simplified RAN and back-end infrastructure, without the need to involve 3GPP core complexity or expense.
Q: What is your target customer base?
Tarana’s customer base includes a mix of established telecom service providers, such as MTN in Africa, British Telecom, XCIEN in Mexico, and many large WISPs in the United States (Wisper, Redzone Wireless, Smart Way Communications, Resound Networks and RTA, to name a few.) To date, Tarana has received purchase orders from more than 160 service providers and sold enough base nodes (BNs) to cover 15 million households worldwide, with subscriber capacity of roughly 1 million.
In the case of Maine-based Redzone Wireless, the operator shifted quickly into commercial network deployment. “After confirming results from the pilot, we were compelled to focus our full attention on planning new network deployments with underserved community partners, “said Redzone CEO Jim McKenna. Redzone recently launched their first entirely Tarana-backed network in Litchfield, Maine, which is capable of covering every household in the rural, densely forested town.
Resound Networks, which is still actively planning additional G1 projects, was able to realize the following benefits following their first deployment of Tarana’s solution in southeast Texas:
- 40% reduction in the number of towers required for full coverage
- 50% reduction in installation complexity and time per tower
- 50% reduction in overall deployment schedule (from over 6 years to less than 3)
- 6x more subscriber capacity per tower
- >3x higher real-world end-subscriber speeds — supporting plans up to 1 Gbps
- Rapid, full-scale market entry into large suburban markets that are impossible to serve with existing FWA technology
- Substantial reduction in network maintenance and customer support calls, given G1’s strong immunity to interference and changes in the radio environment
Q: What are the biggest challenges that your company faces and how is your company overcoming these challenges?
Tarana’s G1 platform overcomes previously insurmountable network economic challenges for service providers in rural, suburban and urban markets. FWA has long been a solution of interest to deploy internet in areas with no fiber infrastructure. However, the limitations of legacy solutions have earned fixed wireless a bad rap, and rightfully so. Previous FWA “solutions” couldn’t deliver quality broadband with obstructions (trees, buildings, etc.) between the tower and customer premise equipment (CPE), despite the fact that industry data shows ~90% of all link pathways beyond 350 yards from a tower will be obstructed – making them near-line-of-sight (nLoS) or non-line-of-sight (NLoS.) Tarana’s G1 platform is the first of its kind not hindered by n/NLoS scenarios, with capacity to provide high-speed internet access at distances up to ~10 miles.
Similarly, legacy FWA fell flat in crowded radio spectrums. Another industry first, G1’s true interference cancellation solves this problem and allows operators to provide stellar service in the busiest of spectrums, even unlicensed bands. This is why Tarana calls it “next-generation” FWA (ngFWA) – their technology is truly in a league of its own, and G1 is flipping the script on fixed wireless.
Q: What are your competitive advantages; what sets you apart from other companies?
Tarana is revolutionizing broadband and narrowing the digital divide globally through ground-up wireless innovation. While other fixed wireless solutions repurpose mobile or 3GPP technology, and therefore face many limitations in the fixed broadband application, the G1 platform was designed with ISPs and their customers in mind. It was purpose-built to provide fiber-class fixed wireless broadband at scale.
Long deployment timelines and high costs are inherent to fiber solutions, making them unworkable in many markets. G1 offers far shorter times to deploy with cost-effective infrastructure, while still delivering mass-scale, high-speed broadband. Tarana is truly reshaping the industry with unparalleled simplicity through a familiar cellular RAN deployment architecture, cloud-based provisioning and service automation, a straightforward and standard fixed-broadband back-end network design, and swift installation with little to no skill required.
Q: How is the evolving communications marketplace impacting your business model?
With billions of government dollars already allocated to broadband initiatives, and more on the way, Tarana customers have a uniquely effective and quick-to-deploy solution to aid in the effort to close the digital divide. Many US operators are seeking (or have already won) ARPA, RDOF, and CAF II funding with Tarana-backed proposals. In fact, several of the largest grant recipients, including Wisper and RTA, are actively meeting the associated connectivity requirements with Tarana. Hybrid networks with G1 are beating fully-fiber offerings because they cut project costs and timelines by a matter of years, while still providing the broadband speed and reliability that is necessary in 2022. Tarana is working to help more customers win grants, expediting the growth of G1’s service footprint and narrowing the digital divide.
Q: How long have you been an INCOMPAS member? Why did you decide to join the association?
Along with the entire telecom industry, Tarana is working to educate government organizations about next-generation fixed wireless access (ngFWA), explaining that hybrid networks – those that incorporate the unique capabilities of G1 – are the answer for closing the digital divide, and sooner than anyone thought possible. The team hopes to connect with policy makers, company leaders, federal entities, and county/town officials everywhere to share what G1 can do, and is already doing, in the broadband industry.
By sidestepping the cost and long deployment times of fiber, Tarana’s ngFWA connectivity can provide secure, reliable service that requires less infrastructure. This amounts to less financial investment, larger coverage areas, and more service quality for customers. Any governing body looking to improve the reach and/or quality of broadband in their area will undoubtedly be hearing Tarana-backed proposals in the coming months. Tarana’s aim is to simplify their decision making process with how fast they can achieve widespread, quality connectivity in their communities.
Q: How have you benefited from INCOMPAS membership (e.g. finding strategic partners, growing sales, networking, etc.)? Please provide as many details as possible.
We just joined the organization — so we’ll see!