While Federated Wireless has been busy refining its role in the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) market – one that it was instrumental in creating – it’s also been investing heavily in the private networking space. That is, until it needed to scale back.
Federated Wireless’ biggest success story in private wireless is its work with the Department of Defense (DoD), according to CEO Iyad Tarazi. It’s also finding success with higher education and logistics/warehousing. But it had to hone its focus in the private wireless space because it was trying to serve too many industries all at once.
“We have retrenched back quite a bit from all the other segments,” Tarazi said, noting those other segments, like retail, are in the development stages and while interesting, there’s no real immediate business to be had there for Federated.
That’s largely why the company had to lay off an unspecified number of people within the past 12 months. “We have taken our resources and we have crunched them down into a more efficient set of capabilities around sales and marketing to get our best return on investment in the verticals,” Tarazi told Fierce on Tuesday.
He declined to say offhand how many people were let go. In response to a follow-up email, the company stated: “There are close to 80 employees currently and that hasn’t changed since last year.” Light Reading previously reported on the layoffs, citing a source who suggested the headcount involved a few dozen positions, bringing the total down from around 130 to less than 100.
Tarazi acknowledged they learned a lot during this period. “This is not a product market. This is an integration market,” he said, explaining that it’s not one where you build a radio or a network-in-a-box and ship it. That was the initial thesis about a year ago, and Federated was working heavily with AWS to push it. But the opportunity is actually more about going into different verticals with very specific solutions.
“This is still an integration business,” which means you’re having to work very closely with one customer at a time to be able to customize and integrate, he said. “For that, you don’t need a big sales and marketing team … We pulled back, just like others in the industry have pulled back.”
It’s similar to what the industry has seen with players in the open Radio Access Network (RAN) and other markets, where smaller players like Parallel Wireless and Mavenir have had to reduce their workforces.
But Tarazi said he remains optimistic about the private wireless sector. “I still believe in the market and believe in the opportunity,” he said. “We’re still very bullish on it. We just want to focus on getting the solutions refined and integrated before we put the investment back in.”
For Federated Wireless, it’s also in the shared spectrum market, acting as a Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator with an Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) network, and that’s quite stable. It’s essentially one of only two players, the other big one being Google, and combined they have about 98% of the market, he said.