The technology that Verizon Ventures is investing in via Kumu Networks is not only designed to make LTE work better, but its applications for Wi-Fi are equally important, especially for companies as dominant in Wi-Fi as Cisco.
Cisco and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) are among the investors in the Series C round that Kumu just closed. The $25 million it received will go toward building a product that doesn't yet exist on any commercial scale. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has raised a total of $45.4 million, including a $15 million Series B round announced in October 2013.
While Kumu's primary focus is LTE -- in part because operators have a good incentive to stretch its efficiency given the amount of money they spent on LTE spectrum -- "our technology … applies equally to a microwave and LTE and Wi-Fi," Joel Brand, Kumu's vice president of product management, told FierceWirelessTech. The use cases for operators are all pretty similar, with the goal of leveraging the technology for 5G sometime in the future.
Kumu, which was founded in 2012 by a team of Stanford professors and Ph.D. graduates, uses self-interference cancellation (SIC) technology that isolates the wireless receiver from the transmitter, eliminating noise and freeing the receiver to receive external signals. The company claims its technology can double the capacity of mobile networks.
Brand says radios act like ears that listen and mouths that transmit. It's difficult for someone who's shouting to hear a whisper from someone else. But Kumu is allowing the radio to transmit and receive at the same time. "Our solution is to essentially put a device between the mouth and the ear" such that when you scream and shout, you don't hear yourself; you hear the sounds coming from the other side, and that allows you to speak as loud as you want and still hear a weak signal. "We are basically making sure the ear doesn't hear what the mouth is doing."
Kumu made a splash on the show floor at Mobile World Congress 2015 with Telefónica and shortly thereafter, it took the technology to the field with operators and a variety of use cases, including point-to-point and point-to-multipoint configurations. What followed were multiple trials, including one with Deutsche Telekom.
At this year's MWC, Kumu plans to disclose performance results based on the live field technology trials that it conducted. It also plans to discuss the commercial viability of the technology and will demonstrate its cancellation module that sits in front of the radio, bringing an analog cancellation device to show in public for the first time.
The exciting part is whereas two years ago people were very skeptical it was even possible, Brand said he's no longer hearing those concerns, but people are wondering if it's possible to miniaturize the cancellation technology. That's where the new funding will come in handy.
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