Fierce 15 2016: Cohere Technologies pushes OTFS in the march to 5G

Editor's note: Welcome to the 2016 Fierce 15, an annual list that recognizes 15 of the most interesting startups in the wireless industry. We'll publish one profile a day for 15 days; Cohere Technologies is the 14th company to be recognized this year.

Company: Cohere Technologies
Where it's based: Santa Clara, California
When it was founded: 2009

Why it's Fierce: Cohere Technologies is developing a 5G air interface based on its patented Orthogonal Time Frequency and Space (OTFS) modulation scheme, which it claims can deliver 100 percent coverage and a tenfold increase in spectral efficiency along with 50 percent cost savings over existing offerings.

“We’re trying to unleash the true capacity that exists in the spectrum,” CEO Shlomo Rakib said. “All carriers pay lots of money for a small chunk of spectrum, and you want to use that spectrum again and again and deliver as much capacity as possible.”

Cohere claims OTFS creates a two-dimensional view of the delay and Doppler of the wireless channel, unlike the one-dimensional channels currently used in LTE networks. Rakib said he learned about OTFS from a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and started exploring how it could be applied in wireless. That teacher, Ronny Hadani, is now the CTO of Cohere.

Cohere’s trials have used currently available MIMO radios with 2 x 2 and 4 x 4 antenna arrays, but the company is working to produce Massive MIMO radios that include 64 x 64 arrays. The company says that while OFDM-based radios used for comparison would fade, drop signals or lose capacity, the OTFS radios never faded – even at distances beyond 4 km – and maintained connectivity even in the most challenging mobile scenarios. The tests were able to maintain a minimum of 4bps/Hz in 10 MHz achieving at least 120 Mbps up to 320 Mbps.

OTFS co-exists nicely with OFDM, the company claims.  

For all its work on technology, though, Cohere is also moving aggressively to ensure its offering is included in the 5G standards that continue to be hammered out. “Broad success, however, will come if the techniques are incorporated into industry standard mobile wireless specifications produced by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP),” 451 Research wrote last year. “Success in that arena depends upon a consensus view from ecosystem players – mobile operators, equipment integrators and component suppliers – that the capability is essential for a 5G air interface.”

The company, which is still pre-revenue, has roughly 60 employees and raised $35 million in a Series C round that closed in March 2015. Its backers include Lightspeed Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Macquarie Capital and the Australian telecom Telstra.

What's next: Cohere said it’s developing a next-generation fiber extension and backhaul product “that will help solve issues with network densification,” and it’s working with partners on channel sounding techniques so would-be customers “can fully characterize the wireless channel in MMwave and other frequencies.” And the company plans to tap the fixed wireless market as service providers begin to enter the 5G era.

Perhaps most important, though, is Cohere’s ongoing effort to get its technology included in 3GPP standards for 5G. And Rakib is confident that will happen.

“Obviously, it does mean a lot for our business” to be included in 5G standards, he said. “I’m confident that you cannot pass on this technology. It holds the key for scale, it holds the key for growth in revenues, it holds the key for many things.”

Read more: FierceWireless' Fierce 15 2016