With $25M in new funding, Common Networks to expand fixed wireless play

Common Networks said its "graph-based" network design allows it to keep costs low. (Common Networks)

Startup Common Networks announced today that it raised $25 million in a Series B round of funding led by General Catalyst, with participation from existing investors, Eclipse Ventures and Lux Capital. The funding will help the company expand its fixed wireless service in the Bay Area and into other markets, but also underscores the business potential around fixed wireless services in general.

Common Networks, a Silicon Valley startup founded by former executives from payment company Square, is roughly two and a half years old and counts around 40 employees. The company is sitting squarely in the budding fixed wireless opportunity: Common Networks currently covers 70,000 people in the Bay Area with its 802.11-based wireless network running in the unlicensed 5 GHz, 24 GHz and 60 GHz bands.

Importantly, Common Networks sells its service for $50 per month, a price that includes installation, equipment and setup. That’s noteworthy considering each customer needs technicians to install a receiver on the outside of their home or office, which then connects to a Wi-Fi router inside. Moreover, Common Networks promises that customers will receive at least 75 Mbps speedsthe company said it often provides 120 Mbps or more.

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Despite what appear to be steep upfront costs, CEO Zach Brock said the company’s round of funding essentially validates the company’s approach to the market, and will allow Common Networks to expand. “I feel really good about where we are right now,” Brock said of Common Networks’ business model and finances, though he declined to provide details. “That’s why we raised the money. We’ve got the model worked out and now we’re going to go and spend the money” to expand.

Added Brock: “Customer demand is easy. People desperately want an alternative,” he said, explaining that many customers even in the Bay Area can only choose from one or two internet service providers. “Demand is broad and universal.”

Much like Starrya fixed wireless provider that also announced a major round of new fundingCommon Networks also builds its own equipment. Brock said that allows Common Networks to keep its expenses low while also designing its network to address demand.

Brock explained that Common Networks’ approach to wireless network design is “graph-based networking” rather than the standard “tree-based networking.”

“Every home has three or four totally separate paths” for a connection, he said. “Our homes are mostly linked up to other homes. … We rely on homes as distributed infrastructure.”

This design, Brock said, allows Common Networks to route capacity and backhaul wherever it’s available, rather than clustering customers around a central tower or base station, as in a traditional network design.

“The plan is to launch more markets over the next year and a half,” Brock said, though he declined to provide details about Common Networks’ expansion plans. “We’re ready to rubber stamp this across many more places really quickly.”

Common Networks and Starry are two of the high-profile startups that are joining the likes of C Spire, Verizon, AT&T, Windstream and others in the growing wireless internet service provider arena.

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