Backhaul Startup Bags $$$ for Small Cells

Millimeter-wave startup E-Band Communications Corp. announced Tuesday that it has received fresh funds and attracted a new strategic investor to support its foray into small-cell backhaul.

But the amount of the funding and identity of the new investor remain mysteries for now because the company isn't saying. E-Band founder and CEO Sam Smookler tells Light Reading Mobile only that the investor is from the wireless industry and described the funding as "a significant investment, sufficient to develop a small-cell backhaul system operating in E-Band frequencies."

Millimeter-wave products operate in 71-76GHz and 81-86GHz frequency bands (a.k.a., e- band), and can provide high-capacity links over short distances up to about 3 kilometers. Some of these frequency bands are unlicensed, which lowers the cost to operators wanting to use them for backhaul. (See Ridin' Millimeter Waves to 4G and The New Wave of Mobile Backhaul.)

E-Band plans to have small-cell backhaul products ready for operator trials in early 2013, Smookler says.

E-Band, which was started in 2006 and has 25 employees, retains its original investors with this latest funding, which include Avalon Ventures, Hercules Technology Growth Capital , Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and ADC (Nasdaq: ADCT). (See E-Band Gets $10M.)

Why this matters
The funding, however much, is yet another sign that small-cell backhaul is hot, as it is thought that mobile operators will have to deploy smaller base stations to achieve the capacity potential of Long Term Evolution (LTE).

And for E-Band, the fresh funds and new product direction offer the opportunity for a revival after more than a year of difficult times.

"We had a tough 2011," Smookler says.

Clearwire was E-Band's biggest customer in the U.S. and used the startup's millimeter-wave gear for transport in metro areas. Now, the company has customers in Australia, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East and South Africa. (See Clearwire Gets a New Backhaul Buddy .)

"It was a longer wait than expected for an endorsement of the technology," Smookler says. "Times are getting better for us. There's a lot going on."

So, millimeter-wave companies like BridgeWave Communications , Siklu Communications Ltd. and Sub10 Systems Ltd. have another rival for small-cell backhaul.

For more

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

ssanyal 12/5/2012 | 5:36:44 PM
re: Backhaul Startup Bags $$$ for Small Cells

Clearly the market for small cell backhaul is now heating up with a number of players either already embedded in or entering the market. It will be interesting to see how the next couple of years unfurl and which flavours of small cell backhaul technologies win out in the long run. We know from our own recent operator trial experience that demand for millimetre wave backhaul is definitely one segment with huge growth potential.


Shayan Sanyal

Chief Commercial Officer

Bluwan UK Limited

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:36:40 PM
re: Backhaul Startup Bags $$$ for Small Cells

Hi Shayan,

The list of options for small-cell backhaul still seems pretty long, which indicates operators have no idea yet want they want or what will work: fiber, DSL, cable, WiFi (where they've already got any or all of that), and then there are the other new wireless options: NLOS, point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, millimeter-wave...I'm probably leaving some out.

The most important factor will be cost. If the backhaul cant' get down to the right price points, then that would stifle any small-cell business case.


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