The Unlicensed Spectrum is a Slugfest. Here’s how Cambium Scores

Soumik Ghosh August 30, 2016
The Unlicensed Spectrum is a Slugfest. Here’s how Cambium Scores

The ability to deliver Telco-grade quality even in the excessively-noisy unlicensed spectrum, with affordable pricing to boot, is what Cambium believes is its success mantra.

With projects like Digital India and Smart Cities gathering steam, the onus is upon network providers to deliver affordable, yet high quality connectivity. A conversation with Atul Bhatnagar, CEO of Cambium Networks, brings to light the necessity to connect the unconnected, and how the company delivers robust quality in the noisy unlicensed spectrum (less than 5GHz).

What are the main focus areas for Cambium in the Indian market?

Overall, we’re focused on only one mission – Connect the unconnected.

With projects like Digital India and Smart Cities gathering steam, the onus is upon network providers to deliver affordable, yet high quality connectivity. A conversation with Atul Bhatnagar, CEO of Cambium Networks, brings to light the necessity to connect the unconnected, and how the company delivers robust quality in the noisy unlicensed spectrum (less than 5GHz).

The key requirements in developing communities is that the solution is affordable, and yet, it lasts for a while. The main thing we focus on is to make the solution affordable. And yet, for the Indian community what you need most is real solid quality.

This is because as you grow the network, the scalability and the resiliency of the solution has to be far superior.

We’re leveraging our history from Motorola by carrying over the DNA of quality. But, we’ve been able to bring more affordability by designing solutions keeping cost in mind.

We’ve also used a lot of innovation in software to deal with very noisy RF (Radio Frequency) conditions. With cnMaestro, a cloud-based management system, a large scale network can be managed.

Could you help us understand how is Cambium able to deliver Telco-grade quality without having to compromise on the cost?

First, we’re leveraging Wi-Fi, and innovating with software in addition to Wi-Fi to give deterministic connectivity. We’ve used a lot of our innovations with ePMP (e Point-to-Multipoint) with Wi-Fi chipsets with our media access layer, and that gives determinism and distance.

In another one of our innovations, cnMedusa, we’re bringing best-in-class spectral efficiency. For most customers using unlicensed band, the spectral efficiency is the measure of efficacy. With Medusa, we can achieve up to 20 bits/Hertz. Most providers are limited to under 10bits/Hertz.

Our outdoor Wi-Fi units are gaining a lot of traction in India owing to the fact that it is tough and weather resistant. So, we can range from 2 meters to 200 kilometers.

Cambium still holds the world record for the longest broadband network link spanning over 245 km. Airtel, BSNL, Reliance Comm are deploying ePMP for connecting enterprise customers.

What challenges did you encounter when you ventured into Industrial IoT?

The main challenge is that each country has different frequency sub gains; different compliance testing norms; different sourcing of sensors; and sometimes, different standards. So, we have to prioritize which frequency to go with, or which standard to adopt.

The second challenge is that as we dive deeper, we need to fit into an appropriate management structure.

In addition to this, the outdoor conditions in India are very trying, owing to the temperature differences, moisture, terrain, and sometimes lightning. So, that gives bullet-proof quality for outdoor requirements.

What’s the rationale behind Cambium’s focus on smart cities, and what do you have in store for this space?

We’re very excited with the prospects of Digital India. There’re many sectors under this, one being the focus on rural expansion and rural banking. Another important focus area is Smart Cities and under that, the concept of Safe Cities.

With respect to Smart Cities, the blueprint is just being created. What we’ve found is that the decisions and implementations, though, are happening in a very fragmented and de-centralized manner.We believe that this is what will lead to success in India.

Some countries have tried to experiment with a national rollout plan, but they’ve not been as successful. India, on the other hand, is encouraging entrepreneurs to come forward.

We’re doing video surveillance for Safe Cities in 70-80 crime-vulnerable locations in Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, Godhra, and other places across the country.

From a technology point of view, the reason why they chose Cambium is because video surveillance, unlike other requirements, needs more upload capacity, rather than downloads. We empower our partners to very easily switch between bandwidths allocated for uploads and downloads.

With Digital India gathering momentum, we’re seeing a lot more players joining the race. What gives Cambium the edge over other contenders this space?

The key advantage we have, is again, the solutions we offer with affordability and robust quality. There might be other players from China, perhaps, who can match our affordability index, but they can’t deliver the Telco-grade quality we provide. It’s not just the hardware, there’s a lot of intellectual property that goes into our software as well.

How do you deal with noise, for instance? (Keep in mind that Indian RF environment is very noisy). We’ve a lot of dynamism that can help channels jump and select the next level; or for that matter – antenna design that help us perform beam-steering (changing the direction of the main lobe of a radiation pattern).

You could eliminate the noise in a very high-end licensed frequency, but we operate in the unlicensed spectrum. So, your total cost of solution is much lower, and through innovation, we’re giving you resiliency.

Also, no other vendor delivers the whole end-to-end chain managed on the cloud. A partner, LNES, for example, is rolling out Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi. Cambium is empanelled by Facebook, and we just launched the 100th village in Kota. It’s this comprehensiveness we offer at affordable costs, that forms the main reason behind partners in SE Asia, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, or Italy choosing us.

 

LATEST INTERVIEWS