BLiNQ Networks - small cells - wireless startups - Fierce 15 2012
Where it's based: Plano, Texas
When it was founded: 2010
Why it's Fierce: BLiNQ Networks hopes to ride the small cell wave by helping to solve one of the most challenging elements in a small cell deployment: backhaul. The company's technology promises to support self-optimizing HetNets (heterogeneous networks) by using non-line-of-sight wireless backhaul that doesn't cause interference and is easy to deploy.
BLiNQ was created by a team of Nortel Networks engineers who in 2008 guessed that carriers would eventually turn to small cells to add capacity and coverage to their macro networks. The team developed key patents around preventing interference in wireless backhaul for small cells. When Nortel went bankrupt, that team managed to raise $7.35 million from New Venture Partners, Summer Hill Venture partners and the Business Development Bank of Canada to purchase their patents and launch a company, BLiNQ. The company today counts 40 employees and another $3.6 million in venture funding.
Now BLiNQ is working on generating sales of its technologies. The company has completed three different field trials with carriers, one in the United States and two in Europe (the company declined to name the operators it is working with).
Frank Rayal, vice president of BLiNQ product management, said the company's technology primarily tackles the problems involved with standard microwave backhaul. He said BLiNQ's system can be installed by one technician (rather than two teams that must create a line of sight between two points) and can manage the interference generated thousands of small cells all working together. For the U.S. market, Rayal said BLiNQ's system is primarily designed to operate in licensed spectrum--mainly the 2.3 GHz WCS band--though it can be used in other configurations.
That BLiNQ is targeting the small cell market comes as no surprise. A wide range of U.S. carriers are making small cells a key element of their network plans this year and next year. For example, Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network technologies at AT&T Labs, said AT&T will begin deploying small cells in earnest later this year in high-density areas. "AT&T has been an advocate of small cells for several years, and we've spent a lot of time with our vendors working on a strategy for deployment," she said.
Indeed, nearly three-fourths of telecom professionals feel that small cells help improve network and service performance and the customer experience at the network edge, and nearly 30 percent say small cells are key to the future of their network architecture, according to a recent survey sponsored by microwave backhaul provider Exalt Communications.
And research firm iGR too has pointed to the potentially huge market for small cells, as well as the challenges surrounding the area. iGR President and Founder Iain Gillott has noted the "mind-boggling suite of diverse microwave and millimeter wave solutions" provided by a variety of vendors, thus making the shopping process that much more challenging for operators.
What's next: BLiNQ's Rayal said many of the company's 40 employees are now at work on the second generation of its product, which he said is scheduled for release in the second half of next year. He said the product will include more interference management techniques as well as more deployment options.
- BLiNQ Networks - small cells - wireless startups - Fierce 15 2012