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Tarana plotting pivot from small cell backhaul to fixed wireless

Tarana Wireless is putting the finishing touches on its plan to shift from the small cell backhaul market and into the fixed wireless sector. The company said it expects to begin selling commercial fixed wireless hardware and services later this year.

Tarana was one of a number of companies in the early 2010s hoping to sell wireless backhaul technology for small cells. The market developed quickly amid hopes that wireless network operators would deploy thousands of small cells to reinforce their budding 4G LTE networks.

However, the small cell market largely imploded as operators discovered the difficulties around installing small cells in neighborhoods across the country (though it has recently shown signs of growth).

As the small cell opportunity dried up, Tarana turned its sights to fixed wireless – a related market that can also make use of fixed, high-speed wireless connections. Indeed, interest in fixed wireless is growing amid new offerings from the likes of T-Mobile, Verizon and Starry and new funding options such as the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

"There is definitely a big need for fixed wireless," Tarana's Rakesh Tiwari told Light Reading. Tiwari, the company's VP of product management, said that several major US and international operators are testing Tarana's technology, though he declined to name them.

Tiwari said Tarana's technology uses a proprietary transmission scheme – meaning, it's not 5G or Wi-Fi – working inside the company's own hardware. It's initially intended for unlicenesed spectrum bands, including 5GHz and the 3.5GHz CBRS band, working in suburban and urban markets.

Importantly, Tiwari boasted that Tarana's technology can work in both line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight configurations, which means that operators using the company's offering will be able to reach customers behind buildings, trees or other obstructions. Tiwari said the company's technology can use 4x4 MIMO antenna technology and 256 QAM operating in 80MHz of spectrum to reach customers up to 15 kilometers away with up to 1Gbit/s connections in a line-of-sight scenario, or with speeds up to 500Mbit/s in non-line-of-sight scenarios at 3 kilometers.

"We are basically able to get 8-10x more capacity" than standard fixed wireless services, Tiwari said.

He said the company is operating a test network in San Jose, California, with around 110 endpoints serviced by a signal transmitter. Tarana investor Greg Wyler boatsed of that network in his recent Reddit "ask me anything."

Dish Network's Charlie Ergen is another investor in the company, and has discussed his interest in its technology. Tiwari declined to provide details on Tarana's fundraising, though he said the company counts around 200 employees.

Importantly, Tiwari said Tarana is planning to sell its offering as an "infrastructure as a service," where providers can deploy a network with the company's technology and then pay Tarana a monthly fee to operate the network. That – coupled with the low cost of using unlicensed spectrum – is designed to make Tarana's fixed wireless services economically viable.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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