Millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum will likely play a key role in the 5G offerings from wireless operators around the globe. In the U.S., Verizon is one of the biggest proponents of mmWave spectrum. The company has already deployed its nonstandardized fixed 5G service, called 5G Home, in four markets in the U.S. and is using mmWave spectrum.
But mmWave spectrum, which is defined as spectrum in the high bands anywhere from 24 GHz to 300 GHz, has some challenges. It can transmit a lot of data (it’s often described as a big pipe) but only for a short distance. And the spectrum is very susceptible to interference, often requiring a direct line-of-sight to work properly.
That’s why startup Movandi’s technology is so compelling. The company, which was founded in 2016 by brother-and-sister team Maryam and Reza Rofougaran, just introduced its BeamXR technology last month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Maryam Rofougaran serves as the company’s CEO and co-founder while Reza Rofougaran is the CTO and co-founder.
Movandi says that BeamXR can solve some of the challenges of mmWave spectrum such as extending coverage while still maintaining low latency and also overcoming some of the spectrum band’s line-of-sight issues. BeamXR supports systems deployed in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz spectrum bands but is scalable to work with 24 GHz, 26 GHz, 60 GHz and unlicensed bands.
Although Movandi’s technology has some similarities to wireless repeaters, which have been around for years and are used to extend or boost signal strength of wireless systems, Maryam Rofougaran shies away from using the term repeater. “It’s not just a basic signal that you amplify and repeat like you do in 4G,” she said. Instead, BeamXR actually manipulates the beam so that it can be widened or narrowed or even bend around obstacles. In addition, it can also help the wireless signal penetrate low-E glass, which has been coated for energy efficiency. “At the end of the day, it improves the whole coverage in a cell,” she said.
By extending the range of mmWave signals, operators that use BeamXR could reduce the number of base stations and small cells needed to cover an area and lower their deployment costs. Rofougaran added that operators don’t need to worry about BeamXR increasing latency because it isn’t using the modem to do all the modulation. Instead, it just more effectively distributes the 5G signal without impacting latency.
The company’s technology currently supports the 3GPP Release 15 standard, and Movandi said it will support future standards when released.
Movandi is currently talking to operators about its technology. Initially, operators will likely be the customers for BeamXR, but the company also is collaborating with other types of firms. It just signed a partnership deal with NXP to collaborate on its products.The partnership combines NXP’s digital networking and signal processing product line with Movandi’s RF transceiver and systems architecture.
Movandi has raised about $40 million in funding so far. Investors include Sierra Ventures, Cota Capital, Wistron NeWeb Corp. and DraperNexus Ventures. Rofougaran said the company might try to raise more funding later this year to help scale and generate more products. It has about 40 employees. Many of those employees are also veterans of Broadcom and followed the Rofougarans, who both worked in engineering leadership roles at Broadcom. The Rofougarans also founded Innovent, which was purchased by Broadcom in 2000.