CalChip Connect aims to be key player in private wireless

Private wireless solutions for enterprise customers will never scale without efficient distribution, and that’s where CalChip Connect wants to play in this developing market. The distributor leverages the logistics expertise developed over decades by surface mount device manufacturer CalChip Electronics, along with a patented security key system that manages distribution of the hardware that unlocks many IoT devices.

CalChip Connect founding member TJ Rancour said his company wants to lead the integration of 5G CBRS and LoRaWAN infrastructure solutions. The company is already distributing LoRaWAN solutions, and for the CBRS piece it has forged a partnership with Federated Wireless, one of the companies certified by the FCC to manage access to the shared CBRS spectrum.

Federated Wireless is providing a private wireless hardware solution, which CalChip Connect will sell as a service, or for an upfront investment of less than $100,000, Rancour said. RF planning, equipment installation and ongoing spectrum management will be handled by Federated, which will charge enterprises a subscription fee. The upside for CalChip Connect will come as enterprises buy more devices to connect to their networks, such as wireless scanners and warehouse surveillance drones, Rancour predicted.

Rancour said the team wants to target 14 separate industry verticals, starting with smart warehouses. As a reference architecture the companies have deployed a private wireless network at CalChip Connect’s 17,000-square-foot global IoT distribution center in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The warehouse network uses four Airspan CBRS radios, an LTE Evolved Packet Core running on an AWS Snowcone edge compute device, and a network management portal supplied by Federated. Rancour said the entire deployment, including the site survey and mapping, took three days.

The warehouse network will connect sensors to monitor temperature, humidity and motion, and Rancour plans to add scanners and tablets, as well as drones which will use lidar to count inventory.  He said the network will be software upgradable to 5G.

“The real goal is about combining 5G private wireless with IoT solutions to simplify and accelerate the process for developers and technology professionals to digitally transform and modernize their operations,” said Chris Swan, chief commercial officer of Federated Wireless, in a press release.

FreedomFi for 5G

Federated Wireless and CalChip Connect also announced a separate partnership to sell and distribute FreedomFi certified hardware running on CBRS spectrum that can be mediated by Federated.

FreedomFi sells hardware designed to give consumers and small businesses a way to set up their own cellular networks. Co-founder Boris Renski has been a longtime proponent of do-it-yourself private wireless, but recently made public carrier offload a cornerstone of his business model by striking a deal with cryptocurrency creator Helium. Now buyers of FreedomFi 5G gateways can mine Helium’s HNT currency in exchange for allowing carriers to offload traffic to their home small cells. But Renski does not see carrier offload and private wireless as mutually exclusive.

“The technology exists for every home in the country to own and operate a personal private CBRS wireless network that can power their devices,” said Renski in a press release. “FreedomFi has the plug-and-play, out-of-the-box solutions, CalChip has the online store to buy it and Federated Wireless has the spectrum and services to make it truly decentralized.”

Earlier this month, CalChip Connect launched an online store selling 5G and LoRaWAN hardware that can mine HNT. Customers can currently buy a FreedomFi LoRaWAN and 5G-ready gateway and have the option to bundle it with FreedomFi's indoor CBRS small cell or with a Baicells outdoor CBRS small cell pre-provisioned with FreedomFi software.