Fixed wireless equipment supplier Tarana Wireless invited California lawmakers to a coffee shop near the California state capitol Tuesday to show off what Tarana’s technology can do to help close the digital divide.
“Experiencing is believing,” said Carl Guardino, VP of Government Affairs & Policy at Tarana. “When policymakers, regulators, stakeholders have a chance to actually experience Tarana’s technologies, it goes from ‘Oh, it sounded interesting but almost unbelievable on a slide deck,’ to ‘Wow, this really works.’”
More than 230 internet service providers in 19 countries and 40 states already know how well it works since its first full year of sales, which was just last year, he told Fierce. That’s after 14 years of operating as a privately funded research and development project and nearly $400 million in investments.
Needless to say, there were a lot of “Silicon Valley-esque near death experiences” during that time before the current product hit the market in about the fourth quarter of 2021, he said.
Tarana pitches a non-line-of-sight technology it calls next generation fixed wireless access, or ngFWA, with a Gigabit 1 (G1) platform. It uses the unlicensed Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band at 3.5 GHz and the 5 GHz band. It will be jumping into the 6 GHz band when the automated frequency coordination (AFC) system is up and running.
Tarana’s founders started from scratch and that’s why it’s taken so long to develop hardware, software and Tarana cloud services that are solely for fixed wireless home broadband, Guardino said.
Three international students – one each from Romania, India and Saudi Arabia – founded the company when they were earning their graduate degrees at the University of California at Berkeley. Their senior thesis topic revolved around how to help impoverished villages in Ghana, he said.
ngFWA + fiber
It was worth the wait, according to Guardino and VP of Marketing Steven Glapa, because the company is completely transforming the business for wireless internet in rural and hard-to-reach areas. But considering the cold shoulder that fixed wireless is getting in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, they need to get the word out.
Setting up a demo with Cal.net in a coffee shop next to the California state capitol is one way to do that. Another is to highlight a study that shows the impracticality of trying to use fiber to reach every household the government intends to cover.
Earlier this week, Tarana released data from an evaluation of 132 broadband projects in the last few years in five states – California, Virginia, Michigan, Alabama and Nebraska. Extrapolation of the data showed it would cost more than $200 billion using a fiber-only approach to connect all the households the government wants to cover – far short of the $42.5 billion in the BEAD program.
Glapa insists there’s no other company that Tarana directly competes with. The competition boils down to fixed wireless solutions that were built on platforms that weren’t meant for broadband, and that’s primarily repurposed Wi-Fi and 3GPP-based mobile services, he said.
The other thing they compete with is the idea that the only reliable broadband that can be trusted is fiber, and while fiber is fantastic – Tarana uses it for backhaul – there are a lot of places where it’s not practical, Glapa said.
According to Guardino, it's important to show state policymakers how Tarana’s gear works and how it’s different from other fixed wireless solutions. Tarana held a similar demonstration in the District of Columbia in December.