Startups

This Arlington company is looking to expand access to spectrum for mobile users

More spectrum is needed as mobile technology accelerates. Federated Wireless raised a $42 million Series B for its product enabling businesses get access to shared spectrum.

A 2017 photo showing members of the Federated Wireless team in Arlington, Virginia.

(Courtesy photo)

This article was updated at 9:01 p.m. on 10/26/17.

Last month, Arlington, Va.–based Federated Wireless announced it raised $42 million in a Series B round, bringing their total capital to $75 million. The company developed a software product which focuses on making wireless spectrum more accessible. These funds will be spent on some research and product development, but mostly on marketing ahead of making their product widely accessible next year, according to the company.

On the consumer side of internet access, most people are familiar with WiFi, and things like 4G and LTE. But it turns out that these things are a part of a much broader use of electronic communication resource called spectrum. Most of the electronic devices you use, from radio to WiFi to GPS, communicate using spectrum. Satellites and intelligence operations also take up large amounts of spectrum, leaving only a small portion for consumers. But Federated Wireless is hoping to change that with its new software product.

“All you have to do is go to a Nationals game and try to use the WiFi to know that there isn’t enough spectrum!” said Iyad Tarazi, CEO of Federated Wireless.

In 2012, Federated Wireless began developing a product that will allow businesses and agencies who want to use spectrum to share it alongside existing users. For companies, the other option would be to buy access to a piece of the spectrum, which would then mostly go unused (like a radio station, which purchases a certain frequency where you can find their show, but then might only have live programming for a few hours of the day).

To enable the sharing, Federated Wireless’ software, known as Spectrum Controller, helps provide access to a new 3.5 GHz band known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Servicewhich has a specific set-aside for commercial use. The technology enables can augment existing LTE networks, or can be used by businesses launching private networks.

In 2014, the company launched commercially. It currently has conditional certification from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and hopes to have full certification by the first quarter of next year.

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Arlington was a natural place for Federated Wireless to establish their headquarters because so much of the research around spectrum is being done there. The company has worked with Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop their software.

The company’s investment round suggests interest from the wireless industry. Investors included Charter Communications, American Tower Corporation, ARRIS International and GIC, which is Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

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