Startup Eridan promises smaller, lighter radios

  • The CEO of Eridan says the company has developed a small, light switch-mode cellular radio

  • This could have drastic impacts on energy and spectrum consumption in the future

  • The startup has raised nearly $60 million in venture funding

The CEO of startup Eridan tells Fierce that the company has made a breakthrough with small, light-yet- powerful-software radio technology.

“We have made a radio that is capable of instantaneously tuning to any frequency between 600 MHz to 4.2 GHz, and it does so at peak output powers of 10 watts,” said Doug Kirkpatrick, CEO and co-founder of Eridan, on a call this week. “The entire low-band that is used for cellular, below 6 GHz.”

“We do that with a circuit that’s called Switch-Mode Direct Polar that the industry has been trying to make work for 30 years,” the former DARPA chief scientist told us. The transmitter is built in Gallium Nitride (GaN), which is typically used in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and newer phone and laptop chargers.

The radio is “2 kilograms,” Kirkpatrick said, “It’s about the size of a Wi-Fi modem you would put in your house. In a way - and I will piss off my engineering team by saying this,” Kirkpatrick said, pointing to a GaN laptop charger, “all we’ve done is take this and make its signaling capability a lot more complex and increase its switching frequency by a factor of 10,000. That’s our radio.”

See, simple stuff, right?

Maybe not so much, because of the GaN switch-mode construction, Eridan can also switch the small yet powerful radios on and off very quickly. The radios can be switched on and off in “nanoseconds” Kirkpatrick claimed. “That’s much much faster than any of the specifications that people are talking about or even dreaming of."

That means in the future, a network operator could rapidly switch towers - or maybe small cells in this case - on or off where they needed capacity. Energy consumption is no small concern for wireless infrastructure.

“The wireless telecommunications infrastructure today [in the U.S.] has a carbon footprint that is in the same ballpark as civil aviation,” Kirkpatrick said. “[It] is 2% of all’s huge,” he said. “Radio consumes between 60 and 80% of that electricity, right?”

So any way to reduce power consumption, switch frequencies, and make the radios smaller will help change the wireless landscape from the macro towers that dominate networks today. “There needs to be a fundamental underlying change,” he said.

Eridan will start sampling its small yet mighty radios in the second half of this year. It is aiming at enterprise customers and municipal operators first. "We are putting the technology out in production at scale in 2026," Kirkpatrick said.

The company was started to serve a Department of Defense radio contract in 2012. In 2018 it raised a series A to become a commercial telecom company. Kirkpatrick said that the company has raised “just shy of $60 million so far.”