Andrena uses FWA to blanket MDUs with broadband

There’s a new fixed wireless access firm providing residents of multi-dwelling units (MDUs) with low-cost broadband service and its secret sauce is its custom access points that use a special beam-forming technology to deliver optimal speeds throughout the building.

Andrena, which launched in 2018, delivers connectivity to MDUs and nearby residents by using unlicensed spectrum in a variety of different bands (including E-band and 24 GHz) and equipment from several unnamed vendors to outfit each MDU with wireless connectivity.

Andrena CEO Neil Chatterjee says that because the company is able to blanket the MDU with a broadband signal, it doesn’t need to install each apartment with a customer premises equipment (CPE).  Instead, every new customer can just log in and start receiving broadband service immediately. “You can move in and have your internet right away,” Chatterjee said.

He added that because Andrena’s network has backup battery power, even if the power in the building goes down, connectivity doesn’t. These advantages, Chatterjee said, make it possible for Andrena to lure new customers away from other existing broadband providers.

But that isn’t Andrena’s only advantage. The company has a fairly low price point, charging residents a monthly fee (no contract required) starting at $25/mo. for up to 50 Mbps and $40/mo. for 200 Mbps.

Andrena currently operates in areas of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Florida. In March the company raised $15 million in Series A funding that it plans to use to expand to new markets in Tennessee, Texas, California, Georgia, Wisconsin and Ohio. The round of funding was led by Dragonfly Investors, a crypto-focused investment firm, with additional backing from existing investors Afore Capital, FJ Labs, Castle Island Ventures, Chaos Ventures, KohFounders and J Ventures as well as new investors Blockchange Ventures, Moonshot Research and EV3.

If delivering FWA to MDUs sounds familiar, that’s because Starry, the FWA that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, has a similar business model but it uses 802.11 technology and millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave) to deliver its services. 

One way Andrena makes inroads with real estate owners and property managers is that it gives property owners free connectivity that they can use to provide service in shared building areas or for their own services, such as connecting IoT applications. Chatterjee said that this is particularly appealing to luxury properties that are looking for ways to provide more services to residents.

Chatterjee also said that because Andrena has what amounts to a miniature wireless network in each MDU, it can act as a transport provider to companies that want to leverage Andrena’s infrastructure, such as its backhaul and power systems. Andrena already plays host to Helium 5G, the decentralized wireless provider that offers cryptocurrency in exchange for hosting its hotspots.  But Chatterjee envisions being able to host small cells or edge locations for telecom providers or hyperscalers.