Celona closes $10M in Series A funding to pursue CBRS enterprise business

A new Cupertino, Calif.,-based company whose leadership hails from the likes of Qualcomm and Aruba announced the closure of $10 million in Series A funding, with the intention to combine cloud, edge and artificial intelligence (AI) for the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) industry. Investors include Norwest Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Cervin Ventures.

Earlier this year, CEO Rajeev Shah and CTO Mehmet Yavuz co-founded Celona, bringing together their combined expertise in cellular and Wi-Fi. Shah previously was at Federated Wireless working to make CBRS a reality and before that, he served in various enterprise roles at Aruba. Yavuz used to work at Qualcomm, where he worked on CDMA in the early days and later drove small cell and enterprise initiatives.

Their financing announcement this week coincided with the CBRS Alliance’s event in Washington, D.C., celebrating the advent of commercial services in the CBRS band.

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According to Shah and Yavuz, the telecom world is optimized for delivering LTE and 5G, but the enterprise networking world has its own nuances and challenges. They’re starting with a “fresh technology stack” to make LTE and later 5G better consumable for the enterprise.

Typically, mobile network operators look at deployments in the enterprise as an extension of their macro network, tightly integrated with everything going back to their core. Management is tightly controlled by the operator. “Really two different worlds,” Yavuz said. The enterprise IT doesn’t have any visibility into that network and it really doesn’t scale, he added. “Even just to extend the coverage of the macro network operator to indoors has been very hard” and it’s not successful in many enterprise situations.

The team comes from a mix of enterprise networking and cellular/telecom, and they believe the things inhibiting in-building/enterprise use cases are some of the complexities that Celona is addressing. “The link between the network edge and the device edge is now starting to be really challenged” from a predictability and reliability and even latency perspective, Shah said.

That’s where the demand for LTE and 5G is new. The need so far has been to extend the macro network into buildings, which makes sense in some venues, but not necessarily every enterprise building out there. That need is just starting, with early adopters at venues like warehouses, oil & gas, utilities, shipping ports, campuses and more.

Wi-Fi 6 is coming on the scene as well, and Celona sees CBRS and Wi-Fi 6 as complementary in the enterprise. “Two new HOV lanes have opened up in a really congested freeway,” Shah said. In some ways, businesses are interested in moving their slightly more mission-critical apps to LTE/CBRS and oftentimes, that helps Wi-Fi, almost in an offload way, leading to better browsing experiences.

The company said it looks forward to partnering with businesses, solution partners and service providers as it seeks to serve the enterprise. It’s accepting applications for its product beta program now.