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Google has bought a millimeter wave radio startup founded by ex-Clearwire execs that may give it table stakes in the future of 5G.

Google Buys Alpental for Potential 5G Future

Dan Jones
6/23/2014
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Google has bought an early-stage millimeter wave radio startup, potentially positioning itself for a future in 5G and super-speedy WiFi.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) revealed last week that it has acquired Alpental Technologies Inc. for an undisclosed sum. The Bothell, Wash.-based startup was founded in November 2012 by ex-Clearwire execs -- Peter Gelbman and Mike Hart -- and had raised around $850,000 in funding.

Former T-Mobile US Inc. CTO Cole Brodman is listed as an investor and adviser for Alpental. Broadman's LinkedIn page describes the company as "a Start-up focused on next generation wireless backhaul."

Gelbman, on his LinkedIn profile, meanwhile, describes the startup as developing a "hyper scalable mmWave networking solution for dense urban nextGen 5G & WiFi -- at the form factor & cost of an iPod." The company is known to be using 60GHz radio technology as the backbone for its developments.

Millimeter wave (mmWave) radios ride on frequencies from 30GHz to 300GHz. The technology is expected to become part of both next-generation 5G and WiFi technology. Carriers and vendors have started some early experiments using the technology for super-fast transmissions of data. (See DoCoMo Unveils 5G Trial Plans and Samsung: Inching Toward 5G?)

Gelbman and Hart's positions at Google are to be determined.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/26/2014 | 1:10:41 PM
Re: iPod?
I know Dan...I just remember when we were first deploying all the fiber and folks would ask our radio expert (yep he wrote books) "why bother? radio can do it" He always answered about the downsides of radio (fiber has downsides too, cost being a large one) but the biggest were capacity, line of sight, and wave perturbation issues. Living in a hilly area, radio waves get bounced like they are riding a tsunami.

Radio is a huge necessity but when I think of backhaul, I think of distance.  When I think of distance, my mind wanders to fiber in the long term.  No cloudy days to block transmission.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
6/26/2014 | 11:36:37 AM
Re: iPod?
There just isn't enough fiber deployed to support the distributed RAN concepts that come with LTE -Advanced and future 5G ideas though. More will get deployed, no doubt, but it will unlikely be enough.

 

That's why we're seeing more and more of these super fast radio backhaul startups popping up.
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/25/2014 | 5:09:18 PM
Re: iPod?
I agree Dan...but only at shorter, uninterrupted distances.  Fiber is the future just because of all the places it can go and the amount of traffic it can carry but having said that, it isn't the cheapest most flexible alternative for these types of applications.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out with Google.  Maybe they will use it for the final mile to get to customers who are already on their fiber networks?  If so, they could basically eliminate any of the other local service providers such as cable, telco, etc.  Just thinking out loud!
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
6/23/2014 | 3:24:09 PM
Re: iPod?
Yep, I've heard of backhaul stuff at 30GHz, 60GHz & 80GHz recently. Definitely interesting as a possible alt to fiber.
fgoldstein
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fgoldstein,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/23/2014 | 3:11:46 PM
Re: iPod?
60 GHz stuff is already on the market -- WiGig uses it, for instance, and there are a few consumer-type devices beginning to use it. Vendors already have semiconductors that work on the 60 and 80 GHz bands.

The 60 GHz band is unlicensed.  It is the peak absorption frequency of oxygen (dry air), so you start with 14 dB/km of attenuation at sea level, which keeps it local.  That also keeps it from interfering with the Primary user, satellite to satellite links (the atmosphere is a nice insulator).  Rain fade can be pretty bad too.  The FCC allows unlicensed transmitters to use up to 1 watt output with 52 dB antenna gain (that's one narrow beam!) but it's still really only useful for shots of a mile or less.  But gigabit speeds there are the norm.

So if you don't have to go through obstacles like walls, water, or air, it's a great band, and, seriously, it is going to become quite popular.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/23/2014 | 12:33:16 PM
5G, Ready or Not
Yes, it's probably five or more years away from commercial deployment, but it's not too early to crank up the whiteboards for 5G.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
6/23/2014 | 12:01:27 PM
iPod?
How would you get a 60GHz radio product in something the size of an iPod, I wonder? 
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