Making Enterprise 5G Possible

This article was first published on September 18th 2019 via LinkedIn.

Cellular wireless technology has been here for over two decades solving some of the toughest engineering challenges in wireless connectivity and global mobility. I was lucky enough to spend 20+ years of my career contributing to its development and evolution - from first digital cellular systems to 5G more recently. Cellular wireless is now a trillion dollar industry that’s connecting billions of people and devices today. Its design and implementation specifications carry extreme detail in the way they are engineered and standardized.

But, this sophisticated mobile wireless technology has mostly not been made accessible to the enterprises. Apps at work that demand the highest level of service levels and quality metrics have not been able to take advantage of cellular wireless for mobile connectivity. It is indeed ironic.

I truly believe that cellular wireless, and specifically 5G, can do so much more than carrying voice- and data-grade traffic on smartphone and mobile devices. Enabling mobility for billions of mobile devices across a public network that spans the globe is no doubt an impressive feat - but I look forward to the days when the same technology makes its way to enable connectivity for new generation of enterprise applications.

The idea of providing cellular wireless in the enterprise is not new. There have been several attempts at bringing cellular wireless within the properties of the enterprise. Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and small cell based Radio Access Networks (RAN) can today extend the mobile operator macro network connectivity within an enterprise facility on the licensed wireless spectrum. Such implementations continue to connect directly to the mobile operator’s core network and they are tightly coordinated with their macro cellular network. As a result, with either of the approaches, the enterprise control and management is limited. Also, the cost of implementation (e.g. cabling with DAS) and operations (e.g. data plans for mobile services) are additional friction points that limit the adoption of these approaches within the enterprise.

With these efforts, the ultimate goal was to improve capacity for public cellular networks via cell splitting and extending coverage to indoors. I was closely involved with these efforts and driving the small cells technology development during my tenure at Qualcomm as an R&D engineering leader. With our efforts, migrating dedicated hardware and boards into a single system-on-a-chip (SOC) made it possible for small cell hardware to get ready for the “enterprise ceiling”. Self Organizing Network (SON) features were next step to enable plug & play deployment and a network of cellular small cells can form a well functioning RAN within buildings and floors.

These innovations were necessary but not sufficient in making the deployment and management model friendly to enterprise IT. The on-premises cellular system in the enterprise had to be treated as an extension of the outdoor macro cellular network - and it did not give enterprise IT the option to make the network resources private when and if necessary, or even have the visibility to the usage of the network.  

All these innovations from my past and the lessons learned along the way make it possible for a new approach. And that’s what I and our engineering team here at Celona will focus on next.

We will take advantage of the US Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum initially to enable LTE/5G as our wireless technology of choice, and use both to solve challenges for enterprise IT organizations - and the line of business leaders they partner with. With CBRS, Celona wireless takes advantage of the shared spectrum principles where frequency assignments to the RAN are coordinated based on geo-location and channels are re-used as necessary. Thanks to the CBRS band, enterprises will have up to 150MHz channel capacity that they will be able to use - private to their facilities without the need to rely on licensed spectrum. Beyond CBRS, there any many similar shared spectrum opportunities are also becoming available globally in places like Europe and Asia as well.

With the use of SIM technology on mobile devices, easy and secure device onboarding and seamless mobility across the network is enabled. With our integrated product architecture, we directly interface with enterprise back end systems such as identity and access management, SD-WAN, next-gen firewalls, enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions, among others. The architecture itself is designed to be compatible with mobile network operators and mobile devices that are able to roam seamlessly between public and private cellular networks. Our end-to-end LTE/5G solution includes wireless network, edge compute, core network and service automation all powered with AI and ML. We provide an integrated solution for enterprises that is easy to deploy and operate without compromising the benefits of cellular wireless technology including crucial features such as QoS assurance and network slicing for different types of services and applications.

Here at Celona, we have started with a blank slate to create a cellular wireless networking solution that will aim to take enterprise wireless to where it has not yet been. We are thrilled to have an incredible set of investors: Matt Howard from Norwest, Arif Janmohamed from Lightspeed and Shirish Sathaye from Cervin with us on this journey.

We have deconstructed and reconstructed the cellular network stack using a microservices based cloud native architecture to enable a truly scalable, flexible and highly reliable solution that can meets the SLA requirements of new generation of applications.

We look forward to its adoption by enterprises, to deliver guaranteed service levels to their new generation of business critical apps.

In order to keep in touch during our journey and to join our early access program for Celona’s product portfolio, visit us at celona.io.